Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Do You Have to Write What You Know? by Crystal Laine Miller

This post originally appeared on the ACFW blog on May 20, 2013. I found it interesting and asked the author, Crystal Laine Miller, if I could run it here. I don't know about you, but that "Write what you know" advice has always stymied me. What do I know? -- Sandy

Crystal: Beginner writers are often told to “write what you know,” which isn’t bad advice. When you’re learning to write, it will keep you concentrating on the craft and not worrying about the research quite as much.

What if you’d like to know some new things to write about? Or what have you always wanted to learn? There are ways to delve even farther into the secret passions of your heart, and that, too, will make research and writing easier for you.

I interview authors about their childhoods and connect those childhood memories with the grown up writer. I send prompts to the author and get them to thinking about things sometimes buried in the memory banks. Sometimes those childhood passions will spark a memory to work into a story, or at least an old passion.

Seeing so many memories collected has shown me that authors really possess treasures from the past that could break loose some areas that they know and might want to further know. We know that fiction writing is a huge “what if” game. So, let’s delve into the “what ifs!”

Here are some questions/prompts to jumpstart your brainstorm:

When I was just a kid, what did I love to do?

If I could improve my life, what would I do?

I’d like to ask ______________ about his life and lifestyle.

I usually worry about ____________ when I can’t sleep.

My blood really boils when this happens____________.

This interests me, but I’m nervous about finding out about it. Who could I ask about it?

I want to know how ____________ works.

The biggest challenge of my life was _____________.

If I could go back in time, I’d have chosen to do_____________.

My first job was ______________ and this is what happened.

My proudest moment has been ________________.

I know someone who can _______________ and I’d love to ask him to tell me all about it.

I’d like to visit ______________________, and find out as much as I can about this place.

If I had all the money I needed, I’d go here _____________, or take a class in

My childhood hero was______________ because he/she was __________.

The next time you sit down to brainstorm a story or even if you’ve come to a place in your manuscript where you are not sure where to go next, think about playing this game of “what I know” and “where do I go from there?”

Have you tried this form of brainstorming? If so, how has it worked for you? Did you come away knowing yourself better and finding ways to apply your knowledge to your writing? 


Crystal Laine Miller has competed in world championship trapshooting events, survived Boot Camp training with a former Navy SEAL, and has traveled 
across the USA, encountering many adventures. She loves to hear your kid stories at (Email her for your interview!)