Thursday, May 19, 2011

Writing what you Know

Write what you know. Yes, I know. You’ve heard that more times than you want to count.But how does this relate to speculative fiction. I sincerely hope none of you knows vampires and werewolves. The pleasure of writing speculative fiction is that it gives me the opportunity for mining reality. Invites me to make the strange familiar. Challenges me to push the limits how I experience reality.

The other side of writing what we know is that we can’t not write what we know. We are unable to break out of our mechanisms of perception. Can’t change our brains for those of another species. What we write isn’t imagined so much as it is translated from one part of our perception to another. We might order events, put the blips of inner electrons into some kind of order, give that order a theme, decorate that order with familiar archetypes and tropes, but we can’t make them up. Knowing this makes what I choose to write more meaningful. How is what I am focusing on bringing more understanding into the world?

All the things we write are about discovering what makes us real. Not the visible parts, but the invisible ones as well. All of story making is about wondering what if, practicing reality with different scenarios. Making stories makes us human. It is this ability that has allowed this branch of all our possible branches of human beings to survive when did not. We are mutation practitioners, forcing the evolution of thought past the boundaries of the obvious. But, we do it through experience—common, everyday experience that we look into as deeply as we dare. We structure that experience as conflict then resolve it. What new species have we created through our storytelling? Who would we be without our capacity to write what we know?

How do you think you would be different had you not peopled the stories with your characters? Where do you feel the tension of conflict between plain old fiction and speculative fiction? Can you see the edges of your own perceptions? Are you willing to look? What do you think is on the other side? What would be the consequences of not looking?


Court Ellyn said...

Love this post! I can't tell you how often I have turned this over in my head. Write what I know? But I write spec fic, I used to say. Then it occurred to me, whatever the setting and the details, I'm writing about human beings. And since I happen to be a human being, I feel pretty qualified to write about them. :D


Melanie said...

Glad this resonated with you. I wasn't so sure when I wrote it :-) It's an idea I didn't have a home for until thinking about it in terms of writing speculative fiction. Funny how writing weird stuff can be so grounding!

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