Friday, February 4, 2011

The Know vs Feelings

This week, Wicked Writers asks the question: Do you write what you know or what you feel?

At face value, it doesn’t seem to be the deepest of questions; however, there really is a lot to digest, if you give it some time to consider. Obviously, if one doesn’t know much about a certain subject, it most likely will prove extremely difficult to write about it with any quality or level of convincing whatsoever. On the other hand, writing only what one knows could prove to be rather limiting as well. Who among us has been chased by a deranged killer, launched into space or swept off our feet by the five foot, eight-inch Amazonian goddess with the long auburn hair and proportioned so perfect that she could induce an old man into cardiac arrest with but a look… I’m sorry, what were we talking about again? Perhaps I have been hanging out with Greg too much.

Personally, I have been known to write with some strong emotions at times. These can be very powerful, especially when I am writing about love that has been lost, anger or jealousy. I don’t know about you, but I have done quite well harnessing those emotions in some of my writing, especially jealousy and feelings of loneliness. I was a late bloomer when it came to all things romantic, so I had all too many hours listening to sad songs bunkered down in the bedroom of my adolescence.

I would submit to you that we write with a combination of both. Just because a painter has never been to the mountains, does not preclude him or her from painting a mountain vista. Just because someone has been single their entire life or, conversely, married for forty years to their high school sweetheart, does not mean that such a writer couldn’t craft the most heart wrenching and captivating of romance stories, such as An Affair To Remember. Or even one after another. My first two novels are about vampire. Now, I’ve been bitten by lots of people*, but never a vampire: does that mean I should know nothing about crafting such a scene?

Wouldn’t everyone agree that good fiction should simply captivate and transport the reader to another place? Whether that is outer space, the old west, along White Chapel joining the hunt for Jack the Ripper or the boudoir of a lover, depends solely upon the tastes of the reader. I don’t know that we care whether the author has experienced any of these examples or is exceptionally qualified in one subject or another, so much as we hope that he or she is extremely skilled at making us believe that we are there with the action. It might take a ton of research or a healthy dose of emotion; just please take us there. There’s nothing worse than a ticked off reader.

* Author’s Note: I was just kidding about the bitten thing. My wife was the only one to ever bite me, and I assure you that I deserved it. ;)


  1. Hey James...

    Yep - you hit the tombstone over the coffin - it doesn't matter, just make us (the reader) believe that we are there with the action.

    I don't know how many times I've had a bed-banger lately - and my main beef was the writer didn't 'take me there' because it wasn't believable. And nothing ticks me off more than to waste my $$$ on something that gives me no satisfaction... (well, there is one thing that does tick me off more -- and that is when I start to ponder how the heck that writer got published to begin with, but that is a cat of another kitten...)

    (note: a 'bed banger' is throwing my e-reader down on the mattress out of frustration. It is equal to a 'wall-banger' - throwing the book across the room and hitting the wall. One can't do that with an e-reader. Well, they could, but the results aren't pretty.)

  2. I keep hearing the Pointer Sisters version of "I'll Take You There." The world building makes the characters act in a certain way, and, as readers, we can spot what is out of whack right away. If we havent built the backdrop to the story well, the characters won't act consistently with the plot, or there won't be enough suspense, tension, passion-whatever that emotion we're trying to grab (hopefully all of them, the more the better), that makes the book impossible to put down.

    Great points today, James.

  3. Happy Friday, George, Sharon. Thanks for the notes. Isn't it so disappointing when we are forced to choose between putting a book away or trudging through until the bitter end, no matter how painful it is to finish? I hate that. Hopefully the writer takes us on an amazing journey, no matter the genre.
    Take care, you two.

  4. I agree, James. I had that awful feeling with "Lear's Daughters" and "Treason's Shore" last year. The first one was hard to follow and the second was overly large because of its soap opera format. Neither could hold my interest.

  5. Thanks for the note, Greg. Hope your weekend is starting off well. TGIF to all of the Wicked Readers and Writers everywhere. Have a great weekend, everyone.