How Do We Write What We Know?

How Do We Write What We Know?


Your reader may not find you, your mother, or your friend as interesting as you do. Even if you have led an incredible life, create a character who has a separate identity. The trick is to use your life to enhance your character, not to tell your life story.

How do we write what we know without writing about ourselves?

We need to separate our experiences from our emotions, our hopes, and our dreams. Experiences can be limiting – especially if we haven’t really done much in our lives.

The other three, however, are our greatest gifts as writers. We need to draw on these. We all know how it feels to be terrified, sad, elated, disappointed, ecstatic. We all have dreams. We all make wishes. Good writing means drawing on this vast resource and using it to breathe life into our characters.

Exercise: Create a character, starting with yourself.

Fill in the blanks: 

I prefer talking to my mother / my father because ______________________

My favourite scent is ___________________________________________  

My favourite song is ____________________________________________ 

My favourite meal is: ____________________________________________

My favourite car is: ______________________________________________

If I won the lottery, I would ________________________________________

I am most afraid of ______________________________________________

I want to _________________________________________  before the end of the year.

I don’t want to _____________________________________ any more.

Now…

Imagine that you are 20 years older than you are now. Imagine yourself as a member of the opposite sex. Give yourself a name. This character has been told that he/she is terminally ill. Now write the opening scene of a novel, using your dreams, loves, fears, featuring this character.

Happy writing.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course or join our course in Johannesburg.

Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, read

  1. Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language
  2. Seven Essential Things to Remember about Very Important Characters
  3. Wherever I Lay My Hat – How Setting Affects Your Characters

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This article has 0 comments

  1. nilakash

    you seems to assume that people actually want to be honest to themselves.They are not.Even at the heart of hearts we know what is true we will never want to put that in paper or bring it in our awareness; by the way, dreams,wishes,career arent who we are they are just part of the outside character.

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