I am taking a minute. Because hell froze over. My boss actually remembered to thank me for doing something.
Whew. Okay, so my crit partner Susan Bischoff (affectionately known as Pot to my Kettle) has made a fantastic and thought-provoking post about the real meaning of the whole “write what you know” trope that writers are always throwing around. You should go read it. Go ‘head. I’ll wait.
So that writer to whom she refers, the one
who was drawn to a particular kind of story that she hadn’t lived, and got so wound up in perfectionist research that she was letting the minutia run the story. Her thinking was much more about what would happen next according to real procedure in the real world, and not so much about telling a story and using the research to color it and fill in the blanks.
Yeah…that would be me.
In my previous writing life, back when I first truly began taking myself and my craft seriously, I was obsessed with FBI procedurals and murder mysteries. I love them. I love the set up and the guaranteed conflict. I love seeing well-crafted villains and take particular interest in criminal profiling. It’s a pet interest of mine and has been since I discovered it as an undergrad in college. How many people do you know who actually own a copy of Practical Homicide Investigation? Let alone who BOUGHT IT FOR THEMSELVES AS A BIRTHDAY PRESENT? If life had gone differently I absolutely would have gone into forensic psychology and pursued a career in profiling.
I read a million blogs of other thriller, romantic suspense, and crime writers, and one thing that overwhelmingly shone through for me is the desire to “get it right”. Nobody wants to be the writer who writes a story, doesn’t research well enough, and ends up having the FBI do something that they would never do. So I became obsessed with getting it right, an obsession that was totally fueled by my pet interest anyway. I wrote seriously twisted and kick ass villains–bad guys that seriously made me question my sanity a time or two. But the books never went anywhere because I was so worried about “getting it right” and not making the random law enforcement professional who might happen to pick it up roll their eyes. Instead of focusing on the relationships between the characters and the conflict of the situation in which they found themselves, I worried about whether I was portraying the investigation properly. All those CSI shows drive me NUTS because they usually get it all WRONG in terms of how it’s done.
It wasn’t until I stepped away from the romantic suspense for a while and took this long jaunt back into the paranormal, where there is no “getting it right” because it’s all my own creation, that I finally started to really grow and find myself as a writer.
Going back to look at what I’m writing and figuring out what it is that I “know” that’s coming through in my work… I know how to write strong heroines. Women who get put in impossible situations and rise to the challenge because they have no other choice. Maybe I didn’t learn that because my fiance was blown up in a car bomb (did that to one heroine). Or because my dad was kidnapped by military scientists (Embry). Or because I had a single mom and an absentee god dad who wouldn’t know the meaning of family if it bit him in the ass (Sophie). But my own life has absolutely taught me strength. A bit ironically, my mother asked me over Christmas how I got to be so strong.
Because I had to be. The alternative was unthinkable.
There are, no doubt, other things that I know that come through in my work. Probably different things in each book. But that’s what overwhelmingly comes through in ALL because that is what I know. That is the heart of who and what I am.
And I think my work is the better for it.
What is it that you know that shines in your own writing?