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Write What You Know?

By Katherine Reay

As I generate ideas for my next novel, I realize a certain theme in everything I write. If you’ve read anything of mine, you’d probably say “classic literature.” While you wouldn’t be wrong… Goodness knows, with titles like Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy and Jane and The Bronte Plot, how could you be? But there’s a deeper theme…

I write about young women seeking to define themselves in a world that gives them little good guidance. I write about women learning to stand, make choices, define love and find themselves. All that said, they don’t always find God. If I leave them along the road, it’s because the trip isn’t over, isn’t always clear – it can get muddled – and they have more journeying to do.

I write that because I know that space… I question it constantly, I observe it, I dig around in it and I explore it. I seek it out in my writing, my reading, and in the movies I watch… To me, that is an infinitely fascinating space.

This leads me back to my title: Write What You Know. What excites you? What questions do you ask constantly?

If you are going to make a story leap off the page and into a reader’s heart, you have to give her (or him) something you know, a truth, from deep within yourself. That can play out in any genre or in any time period, but the essence must be meaningful to you. How else can it be meaningful to another person?

I’d like to propose that, as you sit down to think about your next project, you ask a few questions:

1. Of what am I most afraid? Most ashamed?
2. What makes me smile? Brings me joy?
3. What is the point of life? My life?
4. How have I changed in the past year?
5. What is the most recent thing I’ve learned? Good and bad?

These are just a few probes to get to the heart of you, the writer. And digging into that wellspring lets you bring your characters to life with greater clarity and greater depth.

While you may not “know” the mind of a killer, a Kenyan runner, an eighteenth-century duchess or a Special Forces Operative, you can know what drives them, what hurts them, what forces change them and how they resist. All that – played out dynamically, visually and creatively – comes from you.

So enjoy the writing and dig into what you know.
And thanks for stopping by today!

Katherine Reay 2015Katherine Reay is the author of Dear Mr. Knightley, a Christy Award Finalist and winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut as well as Carol Awards for both Best Debut and Best Contemporary. She’s also the writer behind Lizzy & Jane and The Bronte Plot. Wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer, Katherine and her family live outside Chicago, IL. Visit Katherine on her website at www.katherinereay.com

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