**Language warning. These are my inner ramblings and my mind has a foul mouth. It has since third grade. I kid you not. I’ll scale it back a little, but still - beware the f-bombs.
I’m guessing The Master (that’s what I call my idol, JR Ward) doesn’t have three hundred pound, dirty talking vampires roaming her estate. Yet, she can write the crap outta them. It feels like you’re actually in their world, like watching a panty-dropping reality show. I can see them in my mind with such clarity, hear their deep voices make my nerves shiver with anticipation. They’re sexy, fun, and hawt.
I’m also going to guess - and this is totally my own assumption - that The Master knows a little something about quality possessions. I mean high end, expensive shit. If you’ve read her books - and if you’re a fan of paranormal romance and you haven’t, why the hell not? - she name drops designer items. The way she does it suggests a working knowledge of trendy, name brand merchandise. Since she doesn’t tend to write main characters that live and thrive in the gutter and throws around high end fashion terms, I feel like she must live around that lifestyle.
Some of the stuff she mentions, I swear can’t even be bought in my state. Therefore, it’s difficult for me to write about rich, wealthy characters. Like, really hard. But if my character lives in a trailer park? I got this. If my character can’t afford to eat anywhere fancier than a place with golden arches? I can write that shit with stunning detail. Small towns surrounded by nothing but nothing? Duuude, I can craft any story you need that takes place in a town of two-thousand people, even two-hundred people.
Do I need to be a serial killer to write about one? Absolutely not. But say I was, it would definitely lend a huge dose of realism. For now, unless I’m talking about wiping out carton after carton of ice cream, then I’ll have to fill in the blanks with my wild imagination and well-developed empathy. All those movies and TV shows I’ve wasted precious hours of my life on will accumulate with rapid precision to develop any serial killer scene I need to write. It doesn’t matter if I’ve only seen the first season of Dexter or every Forensic Files known to man. Details will converge in my brain and viola, there’s a scene I can write.
But when I write about anything concerning, for instance, motherhood - I’m there, man. So. There. I can fill in intricate details about how totally mentally devastated a new mom is with a colicky baby. Sore boobs, seeping C-section incisions, and a nearly unhealthy obsession with cute wittle baby feet - vivid detail. I experienced it, I can write about it. Experience adds those little tidbits that bring the scene to a whole new level of realism.
Where am I going with this? In my mind, write what you know means write what’s in your head. I think I err on the side of caution and play it too safe with my stories. I grew up watching movies my grandma recorded that were not screened by my mother: DC Cab, Bachelor Party, Nightmare on Elm Street. I don’t think I was much older than ten when I first saw Die Hard. Therefore, children’s stories do not pop into my head. The stories in my head have tons of emotion, a healthy dose of violence, and a lot of sex. So much sex that I actually scale back quite a bit in my books. But should I?
I read an interview by The Master (JR Ward, remember?) and she said she wrote the first book of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series for herself. I’ve read the same thing about Outlander. That book left me about as shocked as the ending of Game of Thrones. Who the fuck kills a main character? George RR Martin, that’s who. And it worked. It worked so well, he kept doing it. Did he stop to think, maybe I shouldn’t off Ned? Or did he remain true to the story his mind was feeding him.
My first book, Fever Claim, has sort of a group sex scene. The scene was there, the reason for it was there, and I wrote like a madman. When I was done, guess what my first thought was. If you guessed, “Maybe I shouldn’t include that. I can’t put that in there. I can’t,” you’d be correct. But I did and it was hard. Every time someone I know said they read Fever Claim, my mind would flash to that scene and I’d wonder what they think of me. Even now, four books and two short stories into The Sigma Menace series, I’m still insecure about that scene. What it too gratuitous? Does it give readers the wrong impression of my writing?
So what if it does/doesn’t or is/isn’t? It was part of the story and my job is to write the damn story. I need to remember that. Even now, the harder I try to make a name for myself in the writing world, the safer my writing becomes, the more I try to fit it into a category, make its plot follow some sort of stereotypical outline. I need to just fucking write. Maybe I could stand to outline a little bit, but the story doesn’t always unfold until I’ve purged a scene from my head. Then I’m gifted with the next. Some books, a loose outline is mentally hanging out. And both of those methods are okay, as long as I stay true to the story and write what I know, not what I feel like I should know.
We become writers because we have stories to write. Stories that only we know. So write what you know.
If you made it this far in my ramblings, you are fucking amazing and I love it!