A New Year, An Old Debate - Should I Write What I Know, or What I Wish to Know?
January 6, 2015
As I enter into a new year, creating new stories, I find myself going back to an old question. Should I write what I know, or what I wish to know?
This is a question that I suspect plagues a great many writers. We’re so often told to write what we know. But if we did that, would there ever have been such a thing as Middle Earth or Hogwarts? Okay, so those are fantasy novels and maybe they don’t apply. After all, they require an incredible imagination and if one is lucky enough to be blessed with that, then one is writing what they know, correct?
For me, well, let’s just say that when I started writing, I knew I wanted to write crime novels. Am I criminal? No. Am I in law enforcement? No. I am, however, very intrigued by those worlds. So, I did what every good writer does, I studied them. In fact, even in my spare time I studied them, whether I was working on a novel or not. It fascinates me. Perhaps I should have taken a career in criminal justice or something like that. I don’t know.
I have learned over the past few years and continue to learn, so many facets of both sides. I’ve studied the FBI; their vernacular, procedures, cold cases. Not to mention, the really cool technology they get to use! I’ve also put a great deal of time into studying the minds of killers, thieves and the like. I’ve often found that part rather disturbing, as I think most people would, but it was essential for me to understand them, to an extent of course. I read lots of true crime books, talked to former law officials. All of the things that I felt I needed for my work to be authentic. That brings to mind something my husband said to me once. “Why can’t you write about rainbows and unicorns?” I replied, “because then I would be an author of children’s books.” So, while I didn’t really answer his question, I understood it. But, I am who I am and I am drawn to the darker side of humanity, but I am also drawn to those who fight against it.
While most of my novels revolve around murderous crimes, my book, Landslide, focuses on those elements in addition to the primary theme of white collar crime. It was a world in which I knew very little when the idea came to me. But never let it be said that I walk away from a challenge! Instead, I threw myself into that world. I read everything from the fall of Enron to the subprime mortgage crises all the way to Ponzi schemes. Boy, let me tell you, those people responsible were just as bad and did almost as much damage as murderers!
So I’ll wrap it up by saying this. It helps to know what you write about, most definitely, but what you don’t know, you can always learn. Never let it stop you. It hasn’t stopped me from writing with great passion and it never will.