1. Kitkatz
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    Kitkatz Member

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    Just a thought...well more than that...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kitkatz, Dec 3, 2010.

    I've been doing a lot of research for my novel and I've come to realise that I'm getting into issues that I haven't personally experienced- I dont want to sound like I don't have a clue. Should write about or around these topics?
    What I thought could be helpful is to get in contact/find people who have a better idea, first hand memories about such topics- get to know how peoples lives are effected in different ways...to help me gain deeper understanding... Do authors do this often? And how would I go about it? I understand memories/experiences are precious and would have to be very careful and tender with the information I learn but I feel this would be the better way of adding some sort of truth to my subjects.

    Would really appreciate some advice on this, thanks

    Katrina
     
  2. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you only wrote about what you have personally experienced (unless you've led an extraordinary life, who knows!) then you're really limiting your creativity.

    May I ask what it is you feel you need a deeper understanding in?
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First hand experience does lend the greatest sense of authenticity, but I think that one of the talents of being a good writer is to be able to project oneself into experiences that you have not actually had. Writers of historical fiction have to do this routinely, and they usually accomplish it through extensive research. OTOH, when writing historical fiction, there is no one there to say, "No, it wasn't anything like that." At least not from personal experience.

    The internet provides a lot of research tools, but a good research library is still a great help. And in some things, your best bet may be to interview people who have experienced what you want to write about. You can often discover that your own assumptions are way off base.

    Example: when Jane Fonda was preparing to perform the lead role in Moises Kaufman's play, "33 Variations", about a music professor with ALS, she spoke with many people who were suffering from the disease. And she said that the thing that really stood out for her from those discussions was that most of the people told her that if medical science suddenly came up with a cure for ALS, they were uncertain as to whether they would want it, because of what they had learned about human relationships and enduring a debilitating disease. That knowledge informed a brilliant performance on her part.

    Another step you can take is that if you have written about something of which you do not have first-hand knowledge, show what you have written to someone you know who does. They will point out the flaws in a minute.

    In the end, writing is as much about learning and growing as it is about producing a story. Good luck.
     
  4. kayeshannon
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    kayeshannon Member

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    I've always heard that it's best to write about what you know. Your option, though, is to conduct interviews with people who have experienced what you want to write about.
    That's the next best thing.

    If you have a good imagination you can spin on the information the interviews provide.
     
  5. cjs0216
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    cjs0216 Member

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    I agree. Lots of authors do this, so it's not uncommon. How many authors have first hand experience being doctors, pilots, detectives, forensics, etc? Probably not many.
     
  6. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Way more important that your main subject is driven with your passion. You definitely don't need first had experience. Fiction embodies elements that reflect basic human principles and universal themes, shelled by fantastic events that the normal person hasn't gone through.

    I am a big believer in maintaining as many rules of reality unless otherwise stated, it give the reader something to rely on an relate to. As for fact, I research a lot too, but it its something that may take a while you might wanna think about writing the full draft first. Then add in research and test it on someone who knows the topic.
     
  7. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    passion

    I was just reading a book on fiction last night that spoke about this. It says to write about what you know, but its more important write about things that make you passionate. Things that push your buttons.

    I'm always amazed when authors know so much about a profession or history. I am a huge history buff, so it helps when I write.
     
  8. Klogg
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    Klogg Member

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    I would say finding people with first hand experience would be very helpful. It is actually a very common research method for writers of all genres. If they are sensitive memories, you definitely would have to be tender about how you use the information. Especially if they are painful memories.

    On a side note, I've always heard that you should "write what you know", but I totally disagree. It should be rephrased to say, "write what you can convince people you know".
    I've even found that someone with first hand experience trying to write about the subject makes it harder to write objectively. Their writing is poisoned by their experiences. It is harder for them not to slip into autobiographical mode. Writing a second hand account is perfect. First hand and you know too much to write to a reader that hasn't experienced it. Third or fourth hand account and it has lost too much information through retelling.
     
  9. Celia.
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    Celia. Senior Member

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    Do your research and do it well. That is the best advice I can give.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a major part of the job of being a writer is doing the requisite research... all of the most successful writers do research... if you want to write marketable fiction, it's pretty much of a given that you'll have to research something...

    google
    books
    movies
    tv documentaries
    interviewing knowledgeable persons
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes, if you start your research by watching a good documentary, for example, about a place, historical period, or scientific discovery, it can help you get a basic grip of a subject. The facts are more likely to be correct compared to a film, but they are pared down because of time factors.

    I'm refreshing my memory about the French Revolution at present for a Scarlet Pimpernel-style story, and there are a few good French and BBC documentaries (Terror! The French Revolution is on youtube, so is the BBC serial of The Scarlet Pimpernel). The latest film about Marie Antionette is so quirky that it's no use to me, but the many biographies and memoirs of people who lived through the era are wonderful.

    As far as the 'write what you know' comes in, well of course I don't know what coming face to face with a group of enraged sans culottes would be like, but the terrible scenes filmed in Iran--the way they treated crashed airmen came to mind--and makes the senseless brutality against aristocrats like Princess Lamballe chillingly possible to imagine. So, I'm still using infomation that I've 'experienced' even if it's only through a news reporter's lens.
     
  12. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    First do your research.
    Second use your imagination.
    Imagine yourself in the place of your protagonist. How would you deal with the situation?
    If we all relied solely on what we know - then I doubt they would be hardly any fiction out there.
    I think that for someone just starting to write -then 'write what you know' is a good way to get someone into the mechanics of writing. But at some point they have to move on.
     
  13. Mist Walker
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    Mist Walker Member

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    If authors only wrote what they know then a lot of them would be murderers. Empathy is much more useful than actual experiences.
     
  14. Kitkatz
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    Kitkatz Member

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    Once again, thank you all so much for your feedback- I defiantly agree with the majority that writers haven't "experienced all of what they write about", so I'm going to have a serious stab at it and look at other ways of getting that extra depth like interviewing if I need it. Research however, I know is a serious must and I have been doing sooo much of it.

    Katrina :)
     

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