Writing What You Know

One of the best pieces of advice any author can be given, I believe, is simply: write what you know. But how does that apply to me, you might wonder?

We all know that none of us have actually been on a real alien spaceship. We all know that we can’t just spread our arms like birds and fly. Yet many of our fictional stories contain fantastical elements such as these. Distant technology from the future and beings defying the laws of gravity… How could “writing what you know” relate to topics such as these?

Far more easily than you would think! You’re going to be able to write a thrilling, compelling and much more believable sci-fi tale, if you are at least somewhat scientifically and tech minded. It’s a genre I know I personally wouldn’t even attempt to tackle, without some prior reading and research into the fields of space travel, physics and where we are at, technologically, speaking. If you can provide simple truths, they will lend themselves to being extrapolated into greater ideas that still seem at least somewhat grounded in a logical reality.

Even if it’s angels and demons that you’re writing about, being well read in your religious texts and mythologies is going to lend some credibility to your story. Are your entities just somehow ‘magically’ invisible, or do they in fact dwell in one of science’s not as yet fully explained realms between the worlds? Can you offer some form of metaphysical explanation for their existence, and how they exist with us, and yet apart from us?

Fiction may be just that. It may be ‘make-believe’. What you create may be the most far-flung, wild notion out there. But, if you know your subject matter well, you can suspend your reader’s disbelief. You can give them just enough that they venture willingly through your pages, without snorting in derision at the absurdity of your premise.

I’ve opened a novel before, read the first page and put it down. I could not force myself to give the author, or their tale, one more second of time and life. Something on that page was just so poorly imagined and explained that I just said, “That’s entirely implausible, even within the realms of fantasy.” And, I shelved the book, never to look at it again. Unfortunately, it was still $25 down the drain.

Even in fantasy, creatures bleed. Creatures die. They may be stronger, they may be advanced or magically gifted. But I’m sorry — nothing just peacefully and silently bleeds out in its sleep when stabbed violently in the throat! Basic biology and medical science dictate that there will be a response; whether it’s one that can be understood, is an entirely separate matter.

However, if you stab something, chances are, that being is going to feel something. It’s going to react! It’s basic science: Cause and Effect.

Don’t let your story be the one that a reader shelves, disgusted that they wasted their valuable coin and time, on your prose. Do your research, know your lore, study the basics and your writing will be that much stronger and that much more believable!

Til next time,
Zoey Xolton

Have you checked out Zoey’s story in the Dead of Winter anthology? You can do so for just $2.99 this month. Sale ends April 28th, so grab your copy today.