Friday, August 26, 2011

A Month of Fridays continued...

Friday, January 14, 2011 - Please, dear readers, note the date - these are ALL re-posts. I'm not in the stage of my novel that these might suggest - though, I suppose, I could be...

Friday Challenge - Write What You Know

Straight-forward huh? Very unlike me in fact but that is the mood I'm in. The challenge however is NOT to write what you know but to fully examine what this weird trope means. We just accept it like 'show not tell' and ''get rid of all your silly adverbs'. But what does 'write what you know' really mean?
One of my all-time favorite books is The Diamond Age- a Victorian Girls' Primer by Neal Stephenson. It is an amazing look at a future that few could imagine let alone 'know'. In this first steam-punk novel, a cyber-engineer creates an interactive book for a wealthy client's grand-daughter. It gets into the hands of a young girl who lives with her toxic mother and criminal brother in an industrial slum. The story follows three young girls and how the book changes their lives and the way the world works. Neal Stephenson does not live in the far far future. He is not, nor has he ever been, a 12 year old girl. Mark Twain was not a black slave and Shakespeare was not a magician living on an island with his daughter. Yet they all created believable consistent universes.
Perhaps it is in the word 'know'. I don't know what it is like to arrive on a planet not my own, and try to make my way, but I do remember moving every three or four years and having to figure out the school politics that I would be thrust into. I have never lived with a man who has become brain-damaged (as in my novel True) but I have struggled with being in relationship with someone who has altered their being considerably. I have never found a baby on the rocks at Peggy's Cove like my character Winn in The Rock Walker but I have had to make sudden decisions regarding strange happenstance.
Is it possible that we have a treasure chest of wisdom that we arent' aware of? A treasure chest that allows us to understand - to know - anything we might need to know - compassion for the basic human condition that allows us to know what it might be like to have nothing but a soccer ball to befriend on a lonely island, or what living in Biblical times as a woman might entail? I think we do.
Your challenge is to look at five novels or stories and decide what experiences you've had that might have prepared you to be able to write them. If you can't think of five I'll give them to you here:

Gone With the Wind
The Catcher in the Rye
To Kill a Mockingbird
The English Patient
Harry Potter and the ....(whichever you want)

is this my home?


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What I like about this challenge is that it allows us to explore and celebrate what we do know. It also lets us tap those universal human things we all experience. I think that makes us better writers.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I've so enjoyed rereading these Friday Challenges! I'll be thinking of you this weekend and hoping Irene skips right over Nova Scotia or is simply a gentle breeze by the time she gets there.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey. I've read the Diamond Age! I was also a military brat, so I understand the moving around a lot.

L'Aussie said...

I like to write about what I don't know then I find the research fascinating.


Claire Robyns said...

Hmm, I write medieval romance so, as much as I'd like to discover time travel, everything I know comes from research.

Katie Gates said...

Hi Jan, I'm visiting from the Campaign - the Adult-All Genres group. I really like this post, and it has me thinking! I look forward to reading more of your posts, and I hope you're having a productive time during this "Month of Fridays."