Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Knowing is Half the Battle

This weeks topic is a great one for writers, I think. Do I write what I know or what I feel? Like JD, my answer is a YES on both counts.

There is a famous quote that says "To write well, write what you know." That is very true but only half of the equation. Knowledge is important to make your characters, plot, setting, etc believable in a story.

But you ask "Anastasia, as a fantasy writer, what do you need to know? You can just make everything up right?" WRONG! Writing fantasy requires just as much research, if not more in my opinion. And sometimes it might seem like the research I do has nothing to do with my story, but it does. I do a lot of research on government styles, cultures, traditions, etc. - all of them. Why? So that when I do go to "make everything up" I can present a believable world to the readers. Sometimes I even base my fantasy worlds on traditions and themes in our own. So I need to know about them before I can bend or break the rules for my new world.

But that's only half of the equation!

If you don't FEEl what you're writing - connected to it, love it, enjoy it - you're readers won't either. So while I know a lot about the Medieval Ages (technology, traditions, etc) if I didn't ENJOY or LOVE the time period, it would show in my stories. Or when writing my sci-fi, I think one has to LOVE space or technology and adventure to pull off a great sci-fi story. (Then again, that might be me.)

Regardless of the specifics of whatever genre you write, you have to love it. Feel it. I enjoy reading mysteries and crime novels but I don't think I could ever write one. I love to read them sure, but I don't love the minute details of the trade enough to write what I feel. The story would lack in my opinion. Sure, someday that might change, but right now, I'll stick with what I know I love - fantasy and sci-fi adventures.

So do you write what you know or what you feel? I say both are needed to create the best stories. Don't stress about the small details too much as you're writing people! That's what editors are for! Focus on your love for adventure and the seeming useless knowledge bouncing around in your head. My favorite quote is "I'm not dumb, I just know completely useless information" Well guess what? As a writer, none of that information is useless! Put it into a story! I promise if you put knowledge and feelings together, it makes for a great story - and you can always edit your grammar later!


  1. I totally agree. I want to laugh, cry, scream with the characters I'm reading and/or writing. Love this post. Thanks. Have a great day!

  2. I agree, you need both the facts and to feel your characters. The story comes about because of how a reader cares and feels for those people the author has written about.

    One of my friends showed me her Book Bible or Series Bible. This is a new concept for me: keeping track of the world she built, the timelines and "rules", especially important in paranormal. Since I am doing the 4th book in my own series, I also need to be consistent. But now I'm able to discover little details I can add to my other 3 books, which came because I was keeping track of the rules in my 4th. This is light-handed research. Using urban or actual history or legends, myths, also enhances the story, and can come from research, or what I've learned while on the planet.

    Good points.

  3. Lynnrush: I'm glad you loved the post! Thanks for commenting.

    Sharon: I have a huge Book Bible/Series Bible too for every story. I take longer to world build and character build than I do to write the story!

  4. Ana,
    Would you PLEASE take a post some time and give us a picture of how you do it? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! That would be soooo awesome. I have been making a study of these things lately and, other than the self-pubbing info buzzing around, it is my other new light bulb. Thanks for considering it!

  5. I have lots of info on my personal blog Sharon, but I can surely do a "special" series here on say Saturdays if no one else objects? A character building and then a world building one? If I did it all in one post it would be LONG or not informative enough.

    If no one else on the blog here objects I'll put it together and start this Saturday.

  6. I would love that. I'll go to the site as well, but having the Bible and Characters information on Saturdays would be wonderful, and I think would help us all.

  7. Well, actually, Anastasia, I do object to the blog being taken up on Saturdays by your project. However, since I do not want C.J. to put out a contract on me (she's from New Jersey, so she can do it), I'll acquiesce this time.

  8. No problem, Greg. I don't have to do it. It was just a thought, since Sharon asked. Like I said, the info is on my personal blog, just have to hunt for it. :)

  9. You know, I was one of those narrow minded people who thought fantasy writers would make things up as they go -- boy, am I set straight now!

    And I totally agree with you - regardless of what genre you write, you gotta love it. - gotta feel it. I write gay romantic suspense - and as much as I love romance, I don't believe I could write a heterosexual romantic suspense. I don't 'feel' it.

    Besides, there are too many different body parts to keep track of. I shudder at the mess I would make...

  10. AHHAHA George. Too many body parts, that's funny. Yes, fantasy does require a great deal of research - at least for me. If I'm going to have my character weild a weapon or sail on a boat or get married in a certain way, I do a huge amount of research into vocabulary, slang, and even the production of objects so that I can show them well enough in my stories. Sure, I do make up a lot of it like I said, but with me, I don't feel like I can make something up realistically without have some knowledge of how the "real world" does it. Then I bend the rules. :)