Write What You Know

Write what you know. We’ve all heard it at some point. But should you? Maybe.
It’s not bad advice, but I think it’s a bit misleading.

If we only wrote what we knew, exactly as we knew it, there wouldn’t be any fiction. Which would be fine for some people, but I love fiction. Sci-fi, fantasy, magic, ghosts, and dragons. Made up cities and countries and planets. I want those things in stories. And I think we can have them while still writing what we know. You can write a character, a situation, a feeling, or a theme that you know. Then add a bunch of things you don’t. Fictionalize it. Transfer a real experience to a character, then put them in space. I’ve done that one. It was cathartic, and also fun.

It’s much easier to create something believable, and especially something relatable, when you yourself can relate to it. But there are so many more resources available to us now to understand things we haven’t experienced ourselves. Writing what you don’t know can be a great way to learn about something or someone else. A new culture, a new place, a new anything. Find out about something else and figure out a way to relate to it, to write it believably without having done it.

Take an experience, or a feeling that you know well, then build on it. Understand your theme, then expand on it until it’s a full story. Something relatable, no matter how unrealistic it gets. A little tidbit of yourself within a tale.

So, sure, write what you know, then make it something you don’t.
Unless it’s nonfiction, or that chaotic nonsense type of comedy.