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Sunday, June 23, 2024

“Write what you know” means “write the truth”

cj Sez:  Writers are always looking for the magic formulas and rules to make their writing struggles easier. Eight rules on this, ten tips on that, three on the other. There are two rules that top them all:

 My take is, the more I familiarize myself with the different philosophies and “rules” of the various writing worlds (journalism, creative, non-fiction, et al.), the better I am able to write the truth about my characters, their personalities, and their worlds to make them authentic.
   In a way, I am world-building for my novel.
   Granted it's easier to write “what you know”—i.e. the truth—when we write about the people and places we know best. In my Death on the Yampa novel, the setting is Dinosaur National Monument and the Yampa River that runs through it. And yes, I once did a five-day white-water rafting trip there. Even with that familiarity, I had to do more research to make sure I had the dialogue and sites correct. (Memories are notoriously faulty.)

   The following excerpt is from regional writer Judy Alter who specializes in her familiarity with Texas.

. . . “setting a book in a particular region (doesn’t) make a writer regional. It’s essential that the author absorb the setting so that rather than obviously telling, such things as geography, culture, food, and manners flow naturally. Otherwise, the background looks like those fake sets in so many grade B westerns.” 
   I’ll take Judy Alter’s advice one step further: Regions are made up of cities and people, and to write the truth about a city and its characters means the writer also needs to absorb the city setting and its language. That’s why Elmore Leonard’s books are so Detroit-authentic.

   I could never consider myself a regional writer, though not by choice, but by happenstance. Born in Texas and raised in Michigan, I currently live on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. (I guess I could do a decent job of characterizations and syntax of Detroiters.) As a native Texan, I do populate almost every story with a character from Texas, and now that I live in Mobile, Alabama, I people-watch intently. I want my new characters to have some authentic Southern attributes.

   I know a slew of excellent authentic South-regional writers; I also know I’ll never be that good. Writing things Southern is its own genre. There’s a humor and a dialogue cadence that are peculiar (and I mean that in the nicest way) to the South.
   Whatever the genre (mystery, suspense, romance) or theme (cats, dogs, yoga, ecology) of the novel, the details of setting are an all-important facet of grabbing and holding a reader’s attention. How do you incorporate your setting and what you know into what you write?


  Did you ever watch a movie or read a novel with so many visuals or words tumbling out at a rapid-fire pace that they left you breathless?
  If you’re an author who is self-publishing or a small publishing company, author, speaker, and former teacher Ellen Buikema has some advice on how “to keep sensory overload at bay.”

  By the by, as the masthead of Lyrical Pens says, if you have a book you want to promote, old or new, let me know. We can arrange a blog date for your book tour. The only caveat is that this site is PG 13.


  Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Raising prayers for a happy and safe you and yours.

  Now some words from my sponsors:
  Beach? Mountains? StayCay? It’s time to plan for those holiday and summer vacation downtime moments when you can lose yourself in a book. THE DAWGSTAR and DEATH ON THE YAMPA are available on Amazon or through your favorite eTailer and bookstore.

Got a library card? You can read the ebooks free from Hoopla.
  Nota bene: Angela Trigg, the RITA Award-winning author and owner of The Haunted Book Shop has a few signed copies of my paperback books in stock. TO ORDER, contact: 

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