‘Write what you know’ is phrase that’s tossed around writing communities with great regularity. In my opinion, there’s an issue when people take it too literally. I’ve seen recent complaints about how many authors are protagonists in books. This is a classic ‘write what you know’ scenario. We as writers know what that career path is like, even if we only engage in it part-time, which makes it an easy fall-back position when choosing a career for your characters.
I have a book that will never see the light of day, where the main character is a pharmacy technician because I used to be one, once upon a time. Now, I made use of that, since my character ended up solving a mystery where someone was killed using a little-known drug interaction, but frankly, the occupation is boring to do and probably more boring to read about. I fell into the ‘write what you know’ trap.
Usually, I expound on this topic when people ask how I can write about two men romantically involved -- the boiled down answer is… I‘ve had sex with a man… extrapolate… Not all writers have experiences as serial killers or abuse victims or astronauts or undercover agents or SEALS. In fact I’d venture that very few of them have any of those experiences. Clearly, those topics are not off limit, so where exactly does ‘write what you know’ come in, especially when we go beyond what we can find from Google, Wikipedia, interviews etc. into the fantastic, the futuristic, the paranormal?
Right now, I’m working on an alien/human erotic romance, a sequel to Spice ‘n‘ Solace from Carina Press (http://bit.ly/fL2efv). In SnS, I introduce an alien race, which I need to further develop in the sequel in order to make the relationship believable. The biggest hurdle thus far is that I believe when we encounter alien life, I don’t think they will look humanoid, nor will we be sexually attracted to them, assuming we could even get the right bits to rub up together. So… how am I going to get this to work? For that matter, how am I giving the alien race the evolutionary history to develop into a humanoid form and still provide the elements I need for the plot I’m working on?
Well, that’s where I’m incorporating what I know. I have a degree with a double major in physical anthropology and biology. I studied evolution, osteology, paleontology, anatomy and animal behaviour among other things. I drew tiny bits from each of those disciplines, starting with carbon-based life forms who reproduce sexually, to create an alien life form that began as a quadrupedal creature similar to ankylosaurs and became bipedal explorers of the universe.
I admit, I use the concept of convergent evolution as a bit of a bandage that I slap over some gaping leaps in the development of similar sexual organs and reproductive strategies. I used a patchwork of concepts from various species and animal behaviours, and combined them into what I hope is cohesive whole, a species capable of evolution, capable of developing an empire engaged in space travel… and interested in boinking humans. *grin*
So, no, I know nothing about alien species, but I used things I do know how to develop what I hope is a believable species. This is not the only way, of course, but it’s the way that works for me. One of the things I learned along the way is yes, ‘write what you know’, but it doesn’t have to be too literal. The gorgeous eyes of a stranger on a subway, the abandoned lot that sits amidst the skyscrapers, the weird neighbour who lives down the hall, the nostalgia of our first love, the pain of losing someone, psychology class, art classes… these are the things we know, these are things we can use to make our stories relatable to everyone. Let me know if you’ve got anything special you draw on to influence your stories.
KC Burn: I’ve been writing for what feels like my whole life. I’m a sucker for a happy ending (get your mind out of the gutters!) so it’s been romance almost all the way. Recently moved from Canada to Florida with my husband and cats, and shortly thereafter discovered a love of writing gay romance – the hotter the better. Who knew?
Writing is always fun, despite the hard work, but writing about my guys is more fun than I’ve had in a long time. Love between consenting adults is a beautiful thing, and should be celebrated, regardless of sexual orientation.
The Galactic Alliance’s most important negotiator, Jathan One-Moon, is responsible for ensuring the yearly negotiations with the Ankylos are successful. If he fails and the Ankylos go to war, the human race will likely be exterminated. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s under pressure to marry and produce an heir. When he mistakes the brothel owner, Kazha Deinos, for his escort prior to the negotiations, the resulting evening makes Jathan realize his life is missing a man who can be a true partner to him.
Kaz never met his most important client, and Jathan’s misconception allows Kaz the freedom to give in to desires he’s never let himself indulge in before. But Kaz has a business to run, one that a rival is trying to steal, which will force him to reveal his true identity to Jay. There’s also the little issue of Jathan’s impending marriage. Kaz is not interested in being a boy on the side of Jay’s marriage, no matter how much he’s come to care for Jathan. Will Jathan and Kaz find a way to be together, or will losing the man Jathan’s grown to love be yet another price he must pay for saving the human race?