Having Questions Doesn’t Always Mean You’ll Have Answers

Gracie

This morning I was fixing sourdough biscuits  like I do just about every other day. (We leave them in the fridge till supper to let the sourdough do its duty). Gracie, our pit bull/lab mix, was laying on the cool linoleum sleeping. She’s an outdoor doggy but we spoil her, and she doesn’t complain. Anyway, as I was working I was talking to her about my writing. She’s a good listener, she never has a problem with anything I say.

Character?

My thoughts had to do with character and plot influences. For example, if I was to create a story character, a girl named Jane, how alike would her character be to mine? There would be similarities since I am the creator of her character and therefore her knowledge would reflect mine. But how far of a reflection is okay? If I were to say she had red hair, (in case you don’t know, I have red hair) would that be okay or would people point and say, “So are all your characters supposed to be you”?

I actually think, in this case, it would be acceptable. But what if two out of three novels had a heroine with red hair, would that be merely a reflection of my understanding, (since red hair isn’t quite as prominent as blonde or brown), or would it be redundant?

Maybe the above is acceptable, maybe not. How about if my heroine had a love for cooking and was/had been homeschooled? I can connect with homeschoolers since I was homeschooled and I know the ups and downs, the feelings as opposed to public schoolers.

Plot?

Then I come upon another question, to create a plot where there is a lot of unknowns for me, say for instance, a girl living in the Bahamas (I don’t live in the Bahamas), I would naturally have to do a lot of research. But would I ever be able to write about her life in the Bahamas so convincingly that people would never guess that I had never been there? A good writer could, I really believe.

Since I am an amateur I fear I am stepping out of the bounds of my creativity by writing about things I can only research and never experience for myself, at least at the present. I am not against writing about what you know, but as I said in the beginning, how much should you write about what you know?

I’ve read that a lot of classics from writers like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte and Emily Bronte, whose works reflect their life. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility both reflect the lifestyle Austen lived in; she wrote about what she knew. Dickens also wrote about what he knew, the impoverishment of Londoners in A Christmas Carol, the difficulty of growing up and finding work, among other things, in Great Expectations. And the Bronte sisters suffered similarly to Jane in Charlotte’s book, Jane Eyre.

So this obviously proves that writing about what you know is the essence of a good author. However, knowing how much to reflect of your life in your writing is a mystery to me. Naturally, my female characters, or at least the heroines, will have similar desires and interests. If they were to have a lot of similar interests, is this evidence of a lack of experience, or the inability to understand other characters and feelings unlike mine?

Conclusion

To sum up, I have two questions, make that three:

  1. How much of your writing should reflect your life/your interests? Or how much of a reflection is okay? and,
  2. Should inexperienced writers stick to what they know and not venture beyond the known until they’ve had sufficient experience? Which only asks the third question, 
  3. How much experience does one need?

I’m a strong believer in teaching yourself, learning as much as you can, and never saying something is too hard. But I also don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. Realistically speaking, I feel there is still a lot I can’t, or shouldn’t venture to handle at this stage in my writing “career”. Then again, maybe its just the insecurity and uncertainty in me that asks these questions.

Anyone care to give me some advice?

Trivia

The versions we own.

Did you know that my favorite (modern) author is Michael Phillips? I have only recently discovered just how amazing his books are. I started reading his Secret of the Rose series a few years ago and I haven’t found a better series or author since. This isn’t to say I don’t like any other modern writers. I’ve actually been quite occupied with Davis Bunn’s books of late. But the depth to which Phillips writes is so thorough and yet not so much so that it is slow or boring. But here I go on a whole other topic. I’ll save this for a later post.

The new covers. I love them!

In parting I’d like to add if Mr. Phillips could give me some pointers it would thrill my soul. And that doesn’t happen very often.

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