1. SayWhatNow?
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    SayWhatNow? Senior Member

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    Fundamentalist Technique?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SayWhatNow?, Oct 18, 2009.

    I have recently made an observation:
    almost all the great writers that I can think of off the top of my head (Stephen King, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemmingway, etc.) all take "write what you know" to an almost fundamentalist level.

    King wrote almost everything set in Maine, his home state, and a lot of his main characters are writers.

    Charles Dickens set almost everything he wrote (as far as my somewhat limited knowledge of him goes) set in France or London. He lived in these places

    I can't recall a Hemmingway novel that didn't involve WWI.

    Any thoughts on this?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    I can't recall a Hemmingway novel that didn't involve WWI.

    ...1. there's only one 'm' in his name. . .2. you can't have read much of his work, then...
    here are just a few that don't rely on wwi:

    the old man and the sea
    the sun also rises
    islands in the stream
    to have and have not
    green hills of africa
    across the river and into the trees

    and, fyi, most of his war-related stories were actually about the spanish civil war, not wwi. . . but he did live in both france and spain, had been to africa, so he did write what he 'knew'. . .
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Sun Also Rises is post-WWI, and the main character is certainly affected by having served in the war. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say it involves The Great War to End All Wars.

    But yes, there is a great deal in that novel that clearly shows deep familiarity with Paris circa 1920. It's clearly not second hand knowledge.
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    It beats writing about things you don't know the first thing about ;)

    My own stories take place in my imaginary reality, where I also have spent most of my own life.
     
  5. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I agree writers should always write with knowledge, but that saying (Only write what you know) makes me shudder each time I hear it. I think of the young writer who hears it and immediately stops crafting his masterpiece, instead he goes back to writing exactly what he knows and nothing new.

    The last thing I want to see is a knockoff of Harry Potter or Twilight or some other fad.
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    (Still can't get over seeing Stephen King in a list with Dickens and Hemingway...)
    It really isn't surprising....we have the most insight into the things we experience the most, which makes them the easiest to write well about. Also, I think its safe to say that people draw a lot of their inspiration from their own lives, the things that they do and see and experience daily. I think its only natural that they should tell stories about other people in the same situations. And of course, none of that dictates how the book will be written. Consider Ulysses by James Joyce...the subject matter is very much based in the daily life of (people like) the author and his family, yet the style of the novel couldn't be further removed from its content in some respects...
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    When my stories take place in the real world, they take place in cities I've lived in. How can I properly write about Tokyo having never been there? I could pull off a short story that takes place in Tokyo, though, but I doubt I can pull of a novel.

    However, I enjoy creating my own world. I'm still writing what I know because I created the world, so I know it well. I draw maps, draw the different species, think up holidays, burial rituals, mourning rituals, eating habits, beliefs, echology, sociology, psychology, etc. I put a lot of work into my fantasy and sci-fi worlds so that I know them well.

    Yes, write what you know, but you can add to your knowledge.
     

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