1. abbigailrosewood
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    abbigailrosewood Member

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    Life versus Fiction

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by abbigailrosewood, Jan 17, 2012.

    Hi everyone,

    Most of us have probably heard the advice that we should write what we know or have experience. But isn't that so limiting? I think so. But it does make me sad, to consider the possibility that I'm not living enough to make my writing move like I want it to.

    Probably a lot of you can relate to this. As a writer, I'm an extreme introvert. Do you think this affects your writing? I'm starting to find out that it affects me, that withdrawal from other human beings actually hinders my ability to write well, or to create a well developed, multi-dimensional character.

    How do you deal with this? Are there replacements? Ways to see the world without having to participate in every little thing? I understand that someone who is a priest will probably depict a priest character a lot better. But are there ways to convincingly bypass this experience versus pure imagination problem?

    Thanks guys,

    Abbi
     
  2. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    I always like to view fiction as a caricature of real life and not necessarily a reflection of it. Sure, you take experiences and observations from reality, but if fiction were limited to that then it would be a very BORING affair. I wouldn't worry too much about it though. If you say you're an extreme introvert books and films and the like are really where you're gonna gain your wealth of experience. Obviously, then, it's going to be hard for you to put your own original spin on it, but what I would say to you is just to inhabit your imagination. Go as deep as it will go, let it run wild, and see what happens. That's all you can ask for
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've always thought that piece of advice, to write what you know, is (pardon my language) bullshit. I understand that it's given to novice writers because they need something to write about, something they can describe in detail, but that doesn't make it really valid advice for any writer with experience.

    Look what this advice gives us. For example, there are lots of young, struggling writers. What do they know? They know what it is to be a young, struggling writer. So we end up with a mountain of novels about young, struggling writers. Yawn. If only these talented people had something to write about other than being young, struggling writers, we might have some interesting literature.

    I would replace the "write what you know" advice with "write what you love". Envision characters you love, worlds you love, situations you love, themes you love, and write about that. You'll be interested, committed, dedicated, and you'll be more likely to produce something good and interesting than you would if you were just churning out another angsty story about a young struggling writer.

    Arrgh.

    Write what you LOVE.
     
  5. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    I'm very introverted as well. That definitely makes it more difficult to write about people, because I have fewer experiences with them. More importantly, however, it makes me more unwilling to put too much emotion in my story. I limit myself out of fear- though I can't say whether or not you do the same.
    That said, just because you're introverted doesn't mean that you don't know a lot. I find that often times I can read people better than their close friends. My dialogue and character interactions can be more realistic, in my opinion, because I'm introverted. Sitting out of conversations and watching people live life is lonely, and it limits some things, but it also gives you a whole new perspective that other people never see. As an observer, I can be unbiased in determinging peoples' motives and feelings, and that helps me create better characters in my own books.
     
  6. SunnyDays
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    SunnyDays Member

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    In any weakness there is a strength.
    I believe an introvert would be more imaginative.
    Some advice for experience would be to try out every opportunity you get.
    Also reading always helps.

    Just because others talk more doesn't mean they think through things, as much as an introvert.
     
  7. abbigailrosewood
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    abbigailrosewood Member

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    Hi Metus,

    I definitely feel all of the things you just mentioned. I, too don't have as many experiences with people as I would like to. Yes, I definitely feel like I am a good listener, and that somewhat helps me in my writing. My only wish is for my characters to have more variety, fuller. Sometimes I surprise myself by creating a character I absolutely cannot imagine knowing in real life. But often times, my characters are pieces of me, and I'm afraid it won't be enough. It will be okay for now, just not forever. I appreciate you stopping by. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Abbi
     
  8. abbigailrosewood
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    abbigailrosewood Member

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    Hi minstrel,

    That is probably the best advice I have heard. I will remember it for sure now. I actually couldn't stop thinking about it while I walked home from school today.

    Abbi
     
  9. abbigailrosewood
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    abbigailrosewood Member

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    Hi SunnyDays,

    You're right. I do feel that I have the power of the imagination on my side. I am also observant. I would love to experience more things in life though. Right now I'm a college student trying to get my BA degree. After that, I would really like to do something extraordinary...
     
  10. abbigailrosewood
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    abbigailrosewood Member

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    I'm definitely interested in people. I want to understand, that's why I love reading so much. Research definitely helps. I've read some pretty well researched books, but I also realize that I don't like them as much as others. I do research for my writing too, I just hope it isn't too obvious :p. In one of my piece actually, I wrote about an ocularist, knowing nothing about the profession. I read it to my writing group at school and a lot of people liked it, a lot didn't also. So I guess it all varies.
     
  11. abbigailrosewood
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    abbigailrosewood Member

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    I read a lot and watch some movies. They are helpful but still wanting in many aspects....I do like free-writing, where I just follow my thoughts and see where they take me. Usually the result is better than what I can come up with if I just sat there and "try to write".
     
  12. jonsnana
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    jonsnana Member

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    Personally I am grateful that no one was around to tell William Shakespeare (or whoever was using the name), Cervantes, or Emily Bronte that they had to write what they knew. Most of Shakespeare's works are reworked stories or plays that he did better because he wrote dialogue better. That requires listening to how people say things and watching their body language so that it can be described. One of my best characters came from a bus driver whose speech pattern and body language were easy for me write up. Emily Bronte wrote one of the most heartbreaking love stories ever. This shy little church mouse used her immagination to populate a story that we still make movies about. Watch the people around you. Research them the way you would any subject in a book and you will be able to use their gestures, quirks of speech, and emotions to bring life to your stories.
     
  13. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Abbi, have you ever considered an assertivity course? A course in public speaking? Or something else to get you out of your shell? It's not a bad thing to be introverted, and you don't have to become an extravert, but most social skills can be acquired. I say this because I give courses in the Netherlands, and I'm sure there are courses in your vicinity.
     
  14. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I think a little introversion is a good thing for a writer, else we might all be out on the town having a good time instead of sitting in front of our computers. And lets face it, writing is one passion where you have to be able to live inside your head for hours if not days and years at a time.

    And yes it is good to write what you know - but not what you necessarily know because you've actually experienced it. I personally have never, and I know this will come as a shock to many, rebuilt an alien battleship or fought a magic duel with a giant queen spider. But I'm pretty sure I've read both those things before somewhere, and enjoyed them. So yes write what you know and as was said before, what you love. I think it would be foolish of me, never having read any great romance novels, to start trying to write one. If nothing else, I'd get sick and tired of it before I began, and that's before trying to work out if any of it was any good.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  15. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Advice sure but when it comes to writing you should first and foremost alwasy follow your gut/instincts then seek advice based own what you have come up with first I would say.
    how do you mean by not living enough?
    imagination is everthing.

    what do you mean by 'introvert'?

    yes that is true but only in terms of what priesthood entails. Personality and characters is much more intrict and requires tact and experience to get to understand what individual are like.
    Being a priest is just a facade , we can all guess what priesthood entails because of religion.

    follow your instincts.
    You are an individual so use that as a base to creating characters.
    Then relate/think of people you know, family/friends/colleagues/indifferent people and think about what they are and they interact.
    Then use your imagination to either add/change/improve or create.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    only for the lazy writer... for serious ones, it's not limiting at all, since there have always been reference materials and resources of various kinds available to them and with the internet making the entire world even more accessible, there are virtually no limits to what writers can write believably about...

    other than in re emotional development/experience, it has little to do with how much you're 'living'... you're simply not studying or observing enough...

    that depends on what kind of writing you want to do... it can certainly hamper a fiction writer, since to develop lifelike characters one must study people, be out and among them to learn how they act and feel and so on... however, some of the greatest writers of all time were introverts... harriet beecher stowe was painfully shy... so were agatha christie, george bernard shaw, nathaniel hawthorne, raymond carver and robert frost... some overcame their shyness and some never did...

    see above... study the lives of those introverted authors to find out how they coped with and/or overcame it... and don't forget that they did so without the benefits of tv and the internet!

    yes... it's called 'READING'! ;-)
     
  17. Ziggy Stardust
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    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

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    "Write what you know" is not advice for "lazy writers", nor is it some sort of golden rule. It's always a good idea to draw from personal experience. But that doesn't mean you should never write about something you haven't directly experienced in real life. Personal experience does go a long way in making the writing more believable. Don't think about it too literally, if you're struggling to write about the pain your character feels when they've broken their leg. You don't need to pay someone to smash your legs in so you can write about it. Maybe you twisted your ankle once, use that experience as a base and fill in gaps.

    Of course you can research stuff as well. But for instance, no matter how much you read about skydiving, you're never really going to know how it feels unless you actually do it.

    IMO if you feel like experiencing something in real life would help you in your writing (and it's easily doable), then just do it.

    No one can "experience everything", but by the same token, no one can write about everything.

    As far as characters go, of course it helps to interact with people, you'll naturally absorb information. But if for whatever reason you can't deal with that, then reading/watching tv is another option.
     
  18. Hellchoseme
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    Hellchoseme Member

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    I find that the only way I can experience being "other people" or in other professions is through video games. Not everybody's cup of tea I know, but that's something that helps.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i didn't say it was... read what i did say... and read the question i was answering with that...

     

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