Selah Janel reminds writers everywhere that we may know more than we think we do, and can apply that knowledge even to writing about fantastic settings and situations.
Here’s what people forget when faced with the “write what you know” comment. When you walk down the street, everything around you is what you know. The scent of food from the nearby café is what you know. The people you pass on the street are who you know. Everything that you see and how it makes you feel is what you know. The internal monologue that passes through your mind throughout the day is what you know. Every little thing that makes up your life is what you know. Your family experience, the quirks you were born with, how make your coffee, your friends, the things you do in your spare time, the way you earn your living—those are all important things that you can draw on and morph to fit a fantasy setting. You may not need all of that, but they’re there for you to draw on. They’re all tools in the belt, waiting to be used.
Those (and all that come before) are good words, especially the section on knowing people who can help you. As Selah writes, we may not have had the same occupations or life experiences as our characters, but it’s likely we know someone who has.
Having recently conversed with an accommodating family therapist of my acquaintance about the possible real-world repercussions of some of the events described in my second novel, The Devil’s Due, I feel much more confident heading into part three (tentatively titled Oak, Ash, and Thorn). And I would be remiss not to mention the amazing crash-course in all things equestrian my friend Jennifer Becton provided while putting The Devil’s Due together. (I’m gratified to have been able to return the favor with a new series she is working on.)
The key, I think, is to take a fearless inventory of what we don’t know—and then work on knowing it at least a little bit better.