Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A-Z Challenge J = Jazz it up

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Writers - especially beginners - are bombarded with the same old adages, write what you know about and make your stories believable.
What a load of old horse poop, to the firstAnd an upsy-downsy hand-waggle to the second with a long-drawn-out weeeeelllll, to a point.
If I wrote about what I know, then the reader would be asleep within minutes. There is a little thing called research and checking facts.
Daniel Defoe said, What I'm writing here is truer than history. Is he saying he's lying, then? What do you think?
In my own novels, I set them in places that will be recognizable (MidWest USA, Middle England) But none of the towns, cities, villages mentioned actually exist. The characters have professions (lutier, professional musician, firefighter, chemist, fishermen) that I knew nothing about before I researched them. 

So, get the facts right and stretch the imagination. How's that? 
Let's give the old imagination a workout. The other day here I had fun reading your dialogues between two different characters. Let's think of those characters and put them in different settings.

Characters (these are suggestions - you can make your own up):

  • Winnie the Pooh (everyone's favorite, it seemed)
  • Nancy Drew
  • Jo from Little Women
  • Heidi
  • Tom Ripley
  • Heathcliffe
  • Fagin
  • Laura Ingails
  • Francis Crawford of Lymond
  • Harry Potter
  • Hogwarts
  • Desert Island
  • Star Wars setting
  • New Orleans (Vampire Lestat's stomping ground)
  • Middle Earth
  • Jack the Ripper London
  • The Little House on the Prairie
  • Panem (from The Hunger Games)
  • The Moors of Northern England (where the Brontes set their fiction)
  • Dicken's Victorian London
Here's one: Fagin looking at the Little House on the Prairie. Rubs sparse hair on chin and thinks, 'I could teach that li'le girl in the gingham dress my magic coin tricks, oh yes.' 

Your turn!


  1. A novel written without research is flat. It's the research that gives you the small details that provides depth to your stories. And, besides, I LOVE research. Good work on the A-Z Challenge. I'm participating too and I had to research each of the novels that I am using in my theme of "Historical Fiction Novels I Would Like to Read".

    1. I can just imagine how much research that involves. Well done.

  2. *head desk* you know what you've done now? Given me a plot bunny for a Steampunk Lymond fanfic where he's smuggling bears to New Orleans on an airship crewed by Fagin and Jack the Ripper. I think I need a lie down now.

  3. This is so true, Susan. I'm glad I never paid attention to those two "rules" of writing for beginners. Sorry, but I can't play with your character/plot idea today. No time.

  4. Research is my favorite part of the process. I love learning and using that information in my writing.

  5. you are such a hard working writer--i hate research for writing---but wonderful point about not just writing what you know, as they say!

  6. I used to think I was a lazy researcher. If I didn't know about it, I wouldn't write about it. Now, things are a LOT different!

  7. Love this post! I start with something I know, even if it's just an emotion, but only as a jumping off point. Great advice.

    Hmm, how about Nancy Drew in Panem, at the reaping:

    Where are they taking those children? I better sneak onto the train unseen and find out where they're going. Maybe I should send Dad a telegram first...

  8. Thanks everyone. I quite enjoy research, especially when it suits whatever I'm writing and I know I can move on.

  9. Anonymous4:04 pm

    I'll place Winnie the Poo in The Hunger Games. I don;t think that would end well.

  10. "Write what you know" is truly laughable. With that rule how could there be murder myteries, zombies, vampires, gods in Olympus?

    A to Z of Immortals, Myths & Legends

  11. LOL! Thanks for the inspiring words!

  12. Maybe the saying should be, write what you are interested in...
    Writing what you know implies you are done with it- writing what you want to know, well that is like falling in love.

    Great post.

  13. That's always been my thought when I hear this advice...I want to tell them, 'What about Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter? Narnia?'

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  14. Well, if I'd listened to that advice I never would have written my novel. I'd never been to Wales, never lived in a post-apocalyptic world, and have no idea how to fight with a knife, but my character does. :)

  15. I'm glad we're all unanimous about that first bit of advice that gets wheeled out on every Writing 101

  16. When people say write what you know, I don't like to think of it so literally. I like to interpret it as writing from a deep place of truth. Even when we haven't experienced something for ourselves, there is always a way we can try to relate to it and write about it with "honesty". Nice to meet you! New follower :)

    1. Hi Jessica! I love your interpretation of writing from a deep place of truth (that's what Daniel Defoe was referring to I think).

  17. I could come up with something about Heidi meeting Jack the Ripper, but that might disturb someone!

  18. Hi,thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comment. I like your thoughts about not writing about what we know about, LOL; I think I too would have my audience asleep :) Researching does seem like the way to go when thinking about writing indeed!

    good luck with the rest of the challenge!


  19. Oi, if I wrote what I knew, I'd be writing about groceries and laundry. Fascinating topics, those! Part of the fun of being a writer is trying on all those different lives you can't have in real life!

    I think Winnie the Pooh would do well at Hogwarts. He's a bear of many talents and I think he might be a wizard.

  20. LOL! This is awesome! And I agree --- if I wrote what I knew, I would go nowhere. It would be too boring. Thank heaven for an imagination!

  21. How fun! I got Nancy Drew trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders in London with the help of Harry Potter's wizardry.

    And so true, I wouldn't be writing detective mysteries if I wrote what I knew!

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

  22. Love it! And yes this is what makes a story interesting. Someone out of their element.


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