I generally dislike the advice ‘write what you know’ since it conjures up images of creative writing classes writing about having coffee and writing or similar boring literary scenes. Where is the space for flights of fancy, of flying rainbow pooping unicorns or space battles in the year 3121? Do sentient cats get a look in, or cybernetic dogs, or… Well, you get the picture.
However, on a small scale it does have merit. An experience that you have can be slotted into any sort of novel. I remember reading ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’ by Agatha Christie and marvelling at the depth of detail that perfectly described the daily life of an archaeologist. Of course, she knew – she married one and spent time on digs. This time she no doubt mined for her novels ‘Death on the Nile’ and “They came to Bagdad’.
For myself, I have worked underground as a geologist, so I have a romance book with a female geologist and an archaeologist which uses some of this career. (Rocky Road to Love). But I also have an unpublished scifi set on an underground mining planet full of predatory mutants and lethal female mercenaries. Totally different books, but they both use my personal experiences as a mine geologist.
Or it might be a person you met. Not necessarily someone you hate and kill off in a gory fashion, but a habit, a look or an actor. For one of my SMP Druids Portal books, I relaxed watching (way too often) Aquaman movie trailers, and so my hero looked a lot like Jason Momoa, and I had to retrofit a grandson to be physically bigger, and add in a joke about an unknown giant in their ancestry, as he was bigger than his parents. Another book I was writing and went to a music gig at a pub, and the character walked across the room and into my novel and acquired a name from a song. It was a magical moment.
So you can write what you know, but not verbatim, obviously. How far can your imagination twist your own experiences? Quite a distance! Otherwise, my novels would feature a crazy cat lady and her love of cardigans, rather than action adventures in time and space.
Cindy Tomamichel is a multi-genre author, with her SMP series Druid’s Portal a time travel action adventure romance set in Roman Britain. Short stories of fantasy, scifi and romance can be found on her website, where she blogs on aspects of world building. The 30 Organizing Tips for Writers provides much needed help for authors trying to navigate social media and build an author platform. Doing NaNo this year? Check out her free book NaNoWriMo Ready. Or pick up a copy of the free Romance Short Stories.
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