Monday, November 3, 2008

Write What You Know

The first time I read this maxim I wondered if I should find some other way to fill my time besides writing fiction. I didn’t know anything about writing, at least not the kinds of stories I liked to read. Then I found this variation on the subject.
“Write what you care about, what interests and intrigues you.” – Hallie Ephron in Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel.
This made more sense to me. There were many topics I cared about or was intrigued by. And as I read more, I encountered new topics that interested me.

I have a mystery story scheduled for publication in March that revolves around a mind control technique developed for the U.S. military. I read about it in an article posted on the Internet, researched the idea, and wrote a story about two sisters who owned a bookstore. One of them was convinced, through a series of phone calls from a spurned lover, to kill the other. What made the idea work, I think, was the research I did before writing the story. I was able to convince the editor, through my writing, that the plot was feasible, even though somewhat bizarre.

I’ve done a little research for just about every story I’ve written. If my main character has a mental disease or physical ailment, I want to make sure that I have my facts right, so that the character acts as someone would with that problem. I read a short story this morning where it was obvious the author hadn’t done his research. I don’t want my readers to think that about me.

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