Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Write What You (Don't) Know

[Thinking about thinking: Metamemory is a well]by Sarah Sullivan

One frequent refrain novice writers must endure is “Write what you know.” Not to argue with the seasoned professionals out there but, honestly, I don’t think anyone wants to read about the things I know. Sadly, it might go something like this: 
She plunged her hand deep into the eroding wicker basket pulling out sock after dirty sock, tossing each one into the washer with unbridled abandon. Each of her knees had developed tiny bluish divots from where the concrete floor pressed against her patella as she sorted and folded for hours in the dank basement under a dimly lit bulb hanging from a single wire in the ceiling. 

See what I mean? It’s not the stuff of great literature. I think I’m better off sticking to what I don’t know and then adding a healthy dose of imagination and/or research. I am forever writing down snippets of story ideas, constructing scenes, or developing dialogue that I cull from my natural surroundings. Naturally, I’m talking about Starbucks, my children’s elementary school and the grocery store. 
I love to walk in the mountains surrounding our home working out plot points or dramatic exchanges between characters. I’ve become a little sloppy as of late, marching with the precision of a military cadet as I delve into my characters psyche.  One character launches into a tirade and, just like that, mid soliloquy, (which of course, is said out loud) I turn the bend and come face to face with a person or people and more often than not their canine companion, all of whom are looking at me like a crazy person, at which time I pretend that either I was singing or talking to my dog. That, in fact, is one of the reasons I have a dog. Sometimes, I think they buy it. 

Maybe one day I’ll have enough material from my own life for a memoir or, God willing, a thriller or romance novel. In the meantime, I’ll content myself as a voyeur and eavesdropper looking for story lines and characters wherever I go. Fortunately, the world is replete with both. 


Anonymous said...

That is too, too funny. I think mine would start: She scanned the spreadsheet diligently, papers piled in disarray on her desk. The staff meeting was in 10 minutes... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Actually, the passage you inserted illustrating what you know would make a great scene. That's what I prefer to do when I write fiction, take what I know and add a little imagination. Who is the woman in the dank basement with the bare bulb over head, washing, folding, and sorting clothes, a maid or perhaps an abused housewife? Hmm, if I play around with this in my mind long enough, maybe I'll come up with something.

Sarah Sullivan said...

Susan, I like it! I think you've got the beginnings of something there.

Abbie, please steal it and make something wonderful out of my dank basement!

Thank you for your comments : ) Sarah

Shirley Drew said...

HA! Love this post, Sarah!

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