Probably the most talked about writing adage of all time is, “Write what you know.”
The phrase often causes confusion amongst writers. After all, if we ONLY wrote what we *literally* know, there would be no science fiction or fantasy, plus all Crime and Horror novelists and screenwriters would *need* to be serial killers! And that’s just for starters.
However, thinking about it metaphorically may produce disatisfying results, too. The notion that one HAS to be a woman (or vice versa), to write from the female perspective seems bizarre. As I am fond of reminding the Bang2writers, B2W has seen NO correlation between “good” female characters and the gender of the people writing them. I could say the same of race, class, disability, LGBT status and so on, too.
No writer is exempt from being *able* to write a story, but at the same time not all of us can automatically do a *particular* story or issue justice, either. This is why research is so crucial, as is ensuring we use multiple sources and not just one.
It’s also worth thinking about the level of complexity we need, too: we don’t want to overthink it, OR undercook it. Plus just because a particular character is an asshole, doesn’t mean the writer automatically is either (or vice versa!).
A writer doesn’t *have* to have lived something first hand to *get it* or to write about it. Empathy is the name of the game when it comes to writing.
Another key factor worth remembering is that sometimes, we must allow the marginalised to tell their own stories; other times the majority can help break down barriers, first. It’s a difficult balancing act, but one writers should contemplate.
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