Welcome to another week full of topics that make J.D. think harder than normal: Do you write what you know or what you feel?
Well gosh, the only answer for that is YES.
One cannot write well about that which one does not know. One can try, but one would fail miserably.
But J.D., you said you do both! Um, yeah. That’s because I’m capable of doing research and learning about the subject I want to write about. For instance, my first novel begins in Chicago, a city I frequent every summer, and ends in Lapland, Finland, a place I have never been but would love to visit.
Writing about the setting in Chicago – something I know well – is a breeze for me, and is often the setting of choice for most my stories. Writing the setting in Finland, on the other hand, would have been impossible if not for the extensive research I did on the area, the geography, the climate, the customs, the language, etc. I researched until every detail was solid in my mind and the image held in my imagination became second nature. Only then could I write the setting as well as I do for Chicago. But I have to be careful. I have to remember that I have not actually been to Finland and what I imagine it to be like might not be the truth. So I often check and recheck my notes to make sure I’m not filling too many holes with randomness.
Another example: My MC from my newest WIP is a body guard – a field I know absolutely nothing about. I’ve researched it and still need to research it further because I’m not quite comfortable with it yet. Now I bet most of you shiver when I mention the R word (research!), but the thing is there are certain habits and traits we, as humans, pick up after years on the job.
For example, I’m a grooming assistant by day (author by night), my job is to hold the dog/cat still so the groomer can cut the animals hair evenly. Well, after doing this for 2 years, I’ve developed a habit of fearlessly touching dogs that don’t like to be petted. After all, I know how to contain them without being bitten. This is a trait I’ve picked up.
Characters need to have traits like this, traits they learned on the job, especially if you are writing about a body guard. I need the shifty eyes, the self-assured stance, the kick-butt moves, the savvy speaking-into-the-mini-microphone thing …. See what I mean? I obviously don’t know enough about this field yet. But that’s where research comes in.
So, yes, I write about what I feel AND what I know. And if I don’t know it, I learn it.