Note: This is a guest post by my friend Dan Baldwin. (Thanks, Dan.)
You know more than you know, you know?
Hemingway wrote, “A writer, of course, has to make up stories for them to be rounded and not flat like photographs. But he makes them up out of what he knows.”
That’s wonderful advice, but there’s a trap in it.
I have encountered many writers who have shied away from a project due to a fear of not knowing the desired subject matter. “I don’t know anything about Planet Zygorth and the Sleekbelly Vixens of Tyros, so I can’t write about such things.”
Following that logic, Frank L. Baum never would have ventured down the rabbit hole and instead of reading about The Wizard of Oz we’d be reading about The Guy Down the Street in Mattydale, NY.
There are many things I have never done. For example,
I’ve never been in a gunfight in a wild west saloon (the Caldera and the Canyon series).
I’ve never sat down with a KKK boss to plan the assassination of Elvis Presley (Sparky and the King).
I’ve never been stalked by a mad shaman on top of a hill in Arkansas (The Ashley Hayes Mysteries).
I’ve never been a lonely vampire looking for a family (Vampire Bimbos on Spring Break).
I know nothing about these things, yet I’ve written about them, sold books and even won awards for writing about what I don’t know.
What’s the secret?
Take your experiences, your emotions, and the people and events in your life and place them whereverthehell you want to place them in your writing.
Sure, neither you nor I have ever been to a rowdy singles bar with Conan or Han Solo. But we have been to bars, restaurants, and parties with some pretty interesting characters.
We’ve never been in an old west gunfight, but we’ve been in heated confrontations in board rooms, committee meetings, and in personal encounters.
We’ve never been stalked by a mega-python in the veldt, but we all know that sudden zap of fear when we see the lights come on in the patrol car that’s been following us for the last mile and a half.
Use that information. Writing is about characters and their emotions, and you know that stuff backwards and forwards. You live it every day. Now, all you have to do is put it in place.
Never be intimidated by what you think you don’t know; you really do know more than you think you know. You know?
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Dan’s Quote of the Week: “A simple style is like white light. Although complex, it does not appear so.” Anatole France
BTW, Dan’s new photo books feature 21 of his Arizona flowers snapshots, each with poetic commentary.
To learn more about Dan Baldwin and his work, please visit his websites at http://www.danbaldwin.biz or http://www.fourknightspress.com/. You can subscribe to either or both by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.