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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Write What You Know... Or Not

The advice "write what you know" has been handed down for generations. But in reality, how many writers stick to that advice?

I write suspense/thrillers, which includes at least one murder (and usually more) in each book. They've been shot, stabbed, poisoned, their deaths made to look like accidents... But I've never actually DONE any of those crimes. I research quite a bit, looking at police reports, real crime scene data, and talk to experts (usually on the right side of the law.) But I'd never dream of actually shooting someone as research for my murder scene.

Vicki's Key has more romance in it than any of my previous work. It didn't just happen; it was by design. My readers had been clamoring for more romance for several years and I finally gave it to them in a new series, Black Swamp Mysteries, that is designed to be edgier and sexier.

But I have to admit, I was surprised when people began commenting about the research I must have done for the love scenes. I didn't know quite how to respond to that. I've never made love in an open field next to a pond in Ireland but by golly, there's a scene in one of my upcoming books that does just that.

So I'm curious: if you are a writer, how much do you write that you actually experienced? And if you are a reader, how much of the book you're reading do you expect the author to have experienced first-hand?

7 comments:

Amber Scott Books said...

The bulk of what I write, I want to experience but haven't yet. I do love to add very specific details from those experiences I've had, though, hoping it really embues the story with realism.
For example, that delicious, intense attraction that can hit you unawares. I've felt that. I love reliving it in my tales.

Christie Silvers said...

Wellll... I was/am quite the aventurous girl when it comes to the "romance" side of things, sooooooo, yes, a lot of what I've written I have actually experiences. Locations may change, but the overall experience is quite similar. ;)

Now if you want to talk about meeting vampires, werewolves, and all the other monsters that go bump in the night I write about, no, (un)fortunately I haven't met any in real life. :D

Marie said...

Yes I'm as naughty as the things I write about. I don't live the lifestyle daily , but there has been times where days run together. I've never met an vampire, or shapeshifter that I know of.

Unknown said...

As a reader who only wishes she had the talent to write, I realize that when I read it is most likely both. . .first-hand experience and/or research. I don’t necessarily expect the writer to have experienced everything they may write about. Be knowledgeable? Yes. Either through experience or from research that perhaps expounds upon something you may have experienced in a small way and maybe would have liked it to be more. . . Whether or not the writer has actually experienced matters not to me in my reading. . . the feelings evoked are the same regardless…

p.m.terrell said...

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful responses! Amber, I love every book you write and as a reader, I envision myself as the main character in that love scene - not the author. I don't know if you'd want someone to imagine you in that scene? :) Christie, I have your book sitting on my nightstand ready to read next - so now that I know your adventuresome, I'll consider that when I get to those scenes! (Purely from a perspective of learning, of course.) Marie, very interesting response!! On both the romance and the vampires... And Unknown, I really appreciate your perspective as a reader. This is all new to me since I never wrote that much romance into my books before, and I really appreciate everyone's opinion on this issue.

onespoiledcat said...

For me, the experiences I related in my novel were things I "saw" myself experiencing but rarely have in reality. I used Bailey Ferrol for that! She was/is the person I could have been if I'd gone down a different path in my own life. Sometimes though fiction isn't entirely fiction when we weave our own experiences into the mix. As a reader when it comes to fiction anything goes - if it's non-fiction I expect it to be accurate and well researched or at least honest! LOL

Pam

p.m.terrell said...

Very good points, Pam! I agree about non-fiction. When I was much younger, I considered going into journalism and I once had aspirations of writing books along the lines of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" ... But the more I looked into it, I realized the problems that could surface when you don't have ALL your facts exactly right. So I chose fiction instead, which I can bend and weave to my heart's content. Thanks for stopping by!