Write What You Know

At an RWA national conference a few years ago, I sat in on a workshop that helped me understand what ‘write what you know’ means. In this workshop, we were all asked to write down every job we’ve ever had and the roles we’ve played in life throughout the years. I listed: Administrative Assistant to NY Fortune 500 Executive, Secretary in a pool of thirty, College student/graduate, receptionist at a veterinarian hospital, retail associate at a design store, owner of my own Interior Design business, Substitute teacher grades K-12, Girl Scout Leader, bridesmaid, maid of honor, mother, sister, wife, daughter, godmother, friend and aunt.

The speaker asked us to think about how we could use the professions we’ve spent time in as part of our books. Can our hero/heroine work in a field we’ve worked in? Can he/she be a parent? A scout leader? A teacher? An Admin? Instead of all those billionaires/tycoons in a lot of romances out there could we make him/her someone our reader could relate to so they could come to life on the page? The speaker then went on to explain that if you took what you know and incorporated it into your books, your writing voice be more genuine.

She encouraged our group to think about how our hero/heroine might become more relatable–more three-dimensional–and how it would be easier for your reader to sympathize with because they’re so real? Long after this workshop I thought about what the speaker had said and something clicked. It was my light bulb moment. So, I took her advice and incorporated a part of who I am into my next book, and like they say, the rest is history : )

My first book, All You Need Is Love features, Little Man, my family dog, who we lost to illness. It is the biggest tribute I can pay him and his cuteness jumps off every page. I love dogs, always have, and through no planning of my own, a dog pops up in every book I write. Dogs are better than secondary characters because they make people vulnerable without saying a word. We’re allowed to be our true selves around them without any judgment and their unconditional love brightens the darkest day.

Marrying Mr. Right’s heroine, Missy Modesto, is similar to a good friend I’ve known my whole life. Missy is a strong, tough, yet loving woman with a heart of gold and although years may pass between visits, when we do meet, it feels like yesterday : ) Training Travis is about a divorced dad who gains custody of his fifteen year old daughter after his ex-wife’s untimely death. And even though I can’t personally relate to being divorced, I am the mother of two girls, so I can relate to Travis’ fifteen year old daughter and the mood swings of a teenage girl. My first women’s fiction, Pieces Of Candy, is about a menopausal, mother of two. Candy is a substitute teacher and decides she’s wants a real career of her own. So begins her journey into interior design : )

The speaker at that conference knew what she was talking about–and I wish I’d heard her speak many years ago.  Still, it’s never too late and once I took her advice my writing voice has been with me ever since.  I think it’s really about being true to yourself and who you are as a writer….and this probably isn’t something that can be used for every genre to the extent that I’ve gone. Yet, I can’t help but think it would be hysterical to read a book about an interior designer who dies, comes back as a ghost and keeps rearranging the furniture, sending the people she left behind literally flying!

Best,

Cathy Tully

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3 responses to “Write What You Know

  1. Great post! I think you’re right. You should incorporate parts of our lives or the lives of people we’ve encountered into our stories. It makes the characters relatable no matter the genre.

  2. I think a little piece of me goes into every character…including the villain. 😉

  3. Thanks, Stacey.
    HAHAHAHA, you may have a point, Kathy : )))))

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