I'd always heard "write what you know," and it was one of the reasons that I waited until the age of 48 to give it a go. I mean after all who wants to read about a middle aged mother of four who works for the Post Office? And that's basically what I "knew." Not much excitement there-if you don't include the years my kids were teen-agers. (Plenty of excitement during that time period! But I still don't think Biography is going to be giving me a call anytime soon.)
Finally I decided to try my hand at writing in spite of what I'd always heard. I've always been blessed (or cursed) with a good imagination, so I could make stuff up-pretend that I'd led a much more interesting life. Right?
Well, guess what? I discovered, in the end, you do write what you know. And sometimes it happens without the author knowing it. Case in point-I've mentioned my mom a couple of times now, but what I didn't mention is Mom had a pretty sarcastic sense of humor and she liked to banter. Once, after Mom and I had spent the day together, someone who'd been with us commented to me that I didn't "talk very nice to my mother." She didn't get that we were joking around. Go forward several years-I'd just finished the manuscript for WITCH WAY TO MURDER. I'm sitting in my critique group and we're discussing the pros and cons of the story when one of my fellow authors remarked, "Ophelia could talk a little nicer to her grandmother." Boy, did that ring a bell! Without knowing or attempting it, I'd given Ophelia and Abby many of the same dynamics that Mom and I had shared in our relationship.
So it's not about "knowing" what goes on around you, it's not leading an exciting life with a fascinating career. It's "knowing" what goes on inside of you that winds up on the page and in your characters' hearts and minds. How it feels to love, to have children, to suffer losses and disappointments-all those experiences that make us human-are, in my opinion, what makes for interesting characters.
What are some of your favorite characters and why? Who do you identify with most? The kick ass cop? The sexy private investigator? The innocent ingénue who doesn't have a clue? Let me know AND to whet everyone's appetite for the killer contest that we're having next week, one lucky poster (picked at random) will win a signed copy of WITCH WAY TO MURDER!