Since I began life as an observer, I like to suggest that you write what you know. However, having read a few authors’ unpublished works; I’ve discovered that many believe they know what their writing reveals that they don’t.
In the 1948 film, I Remember Mama, the eldest daughter, Katrin wants to be a writer, but was unable to realize her dream. Aware that her daughter’s heart will be broken if she has to give up her goal, Mama seeks the advice of a famous author who reads one of Katrin’s stories and tells her, “Katrin should write what she knows.” Since I believe this sage advice is critical it is important to mention that what you know is unique to you. Even if you had an identical twin, you would discover that neither of you thinks or behaves the same way because though your experiences appear the same they would filtered through each persons feelings, actions, and reactions. Thus the history, highs and lows, the ethical foundations, and issues each person experiences internally are different. Just as we are unique, so is each character we write. For this to happen we need to search ourselves for the scope of what we know is more than we imagine. Unlike any other occupation, we authors expose who we are, what we know, and what we believe to the reader. Yet, writers are happy to do so, for in the process of writing we discover ourselves as others seldom do.
Begin writing what you know and you’ll soon discover your need to know more! This journey into the unknown that we thought we knew can be disheartening which is why I share that writing is not for the faint of heart, nor is it a level playing field where reviewers make each author feel good. Rather writing requires that we realize there is always more to know, more to feel, more to experience! Living on the edge is writing at its very best! What other work allows you to experience someone else reality without changing a thing about your own!
Before James Michener wrote the novel
Many ask if they need to outline, storyboard, do character sketches, etc. I believe each of these items as well as many others are good, yet some authors—myself included—have done everything listed and much more only to discover that the book they thought they were going to write is not the story the characters wanted to tell. Therefore, let me suggest that doing everything possible to be ready, yet remaining flexible to the story as it unfolds is a must because if the characters begin speaking and lead the author into a different story, the author is blessed indeed!
As you can see writing, at least the internal experience of the writer, is all about tension and release. The secret is to put those elements on each page. If your want your story or novel to be a page turner, learn how these two parts of the puzzle fit together, and create an enjoyable read. For as I stated in the beginning tension and release is needed to catch a fish, and knowing how to use these tools when writing will help you become an author with a large following.