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Write what you know

It's advice I've been given over and over again. I desperately want to write what I know creatively. I want to share my life in fiction or even memoir form, but I'm always afraid that the reality of things will come out in my words - that people will recognize the parallels between my reality and my writing.

I'm embarrassed by it, I'm plagued by it. When I write about the mean things "that man" said to "that girl," will my father recognize his own words to my mother? Will my husband see his actions in my descriptions? Will they recognize themselves?

I try to learn more so that my writing becomes something different, something that is not a part of me, but every word, every syllable, truly is a part of me, a part of my soul - how could I ever separate that?


Here's my experience: you're probably safe. Because what you perceived as a 'mean thing' probably was seen as a 'harsh but necessary thing,' by the person who said it. We don't live inside each others heads, and our perceptions are not the same as others. Even if you describe another person to what you consider perfection, chances are they don't see themselves that way. As my Dad once said about a character in a story of mine. 'This guy kind of reminds me of me, except he's a jerk.' :D

Write what you know, yes indeed, and tell the truth as you see it. But you can't write what other's know.

Hope that helps. :)


Hi Fossil,

Facing your fears -- fear of readers seeing the truth in your fiction, in your case -- is what will make you a better writer.

Everything we write is a reflection of who we are and what we have experienced. Sometimes it literal, other times it runs as subtext, like a metaphorical undercurrent beneath the surface.

Many of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels are, if you look at the author's biography, filled with stories which are most likely based on real life events. Life itself is the best trigger for fiction, in my opinion.

Parallels to reality will always be there, in some form. The trick is not to worry about them being perceived, but to use them, as inspiration, like a an artist uses nature to paint his own landscapes.

The reality of the subject matter is not so much what the reader notices, but how you, as the writer, share your unique perspective of the world.

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