This article first appeared in the July issue of MARA MATTERS, the newsletter of Mid-America Romance Authors.
Write What You Know by Carla Cassidy
Write what you know, that's the advice writers often hear. For some this might be sound advice, but in my case, I think it's horrible.
If I write what I know, then I can write about being a housewife and a mother. I can fill paragraphs with descriptions of how to fold towels, how to iron a perfect crease in a shirt and how to entertain a six-year-old for an hour with a bag of chips, some construction paper and a glue stick. But this is not the stuff of good fiction!
One of the themes I write about often is how the lack of parental love and affection can affect a person. Yet I've been blessed to have parents who are emotionally available, tremendously supportive and loving. I write what I don't know, but I write what intrigues me.
ME SIGNING WITH CARLA AT DOG-EARED BOOKS IN INDEPENDENCE, MO --------->
This, I think is a secret of good writing, to write not necessarily what you know, but what you are passionate about, what interests you.
In my romantic suspense novels for Signet Eclipse I write about people who are psychologically abnormal. I don't have any personal experience in that field (well, there is that distant cousin that everyone only whispers about) and yet I am fascinated by the human mind. That's where my passion lies and so that's what I write about.
Certainly if you have personal experience that enhances your writing, like Susan Grant who is a pilot, or Patricia Cornwell who worked for the Virginia Medical Examiner's office, then pull from that well of knowledge.
Unfortunately, my well of knowledge is limited and my world is one of everyday people and everyday things. The trick is to take that world and fill it with things I don't know but can learn to create a fictional world that readers will want to know.
With the easy access of the Internet, research has never been simpler. With a few strokes of the keys you can learn about almost anything.
Hmm, maybe that means you can write what you know because it's never been easier to learn. I may be a housewife from the Midwest, but I've researched everything from serial killers to ocean life.
Each and every book I write is a new adventure for me, an adventure that takes me away from folding clothes and thrusts me into a world of new knowledge.
Here's to finding adventure even if you're in the midst of folding towels or creasing that shirt sleeve with a hot iron.
Carla Cassidy's next release is Paint It Red, an August Signet Eclipse.
Two years ago, Vanessa Abott's husband Jim, an up-and-coming artist, drowned himself in the Missouri River. His body still hasn't been recovered. Now Vanessa has arranged for one last showing of her husband's brilliant, disturbing artwork. Critics are raving and pieces are selling. She even meets an interesting man.
Then the gallery owner is found dead with a splash of red paint across his body. Vanessa recognizes it as Jim's signature mark. And in her home, Jim's picture somehow finds its way back onto the dresser, and his jacket appears on a kitchen chair. Is she going crazy? Or has her husband come back...for her?