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Write what you know and know a lot

In a masters course, world renowned and award winning author Salman Rushdie said authors should writer they know, and authors have to know a lot. He went on to say authors need to research the subjects and people in their books with journalistic skills.

Writing what you know can entail emotions. You have likely experienced many emotions in you life, both good and troubling. This is material to draw upon. You can also extrapolate and heighten emotions and experiences you have had. You may want to write about a character who has a broken arm. You can research broken arms and read accounts by people who have broken an arm. To bring about the emotional response, think about a time when you had a toothache or other injury. Mentally transfer the pain to an arm and multiply it by 100.

Yet, writing what you know can go beyond emotions when you create situations and cultures that are not your own. Another thing Mr. Rushdie said is if white people can only write about white people and black people about black people and men about men and women about women, the form of the novel is dead.

To write about cultures or people outside your personal experience requires you to both study the subject in detail and speak directly with people of different communities. Mr. Rushdie sites a major female character in one of his books who is strong and competent. He is not a woman, has not personally experience the exclusion many women do, has never given birth. He talked to woman and used a historical woman who was strong in the ways his character is as a role model to effectively create a whole and compelling character that people believe in.


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