Self-Pub vs. Small e-press Part 4: Write What You Know.

 This is the one area where self publishing and going with a publisher is pretty much the same, but I tossed it in anyway because it’s just something I find interesting.
As a writer, one thing I’ve heard several times is ‘write what you know’. In other words, write about a topic you are familiar with and incorporate that knowledge into your writing in some fashion. The idea is to make the story more believable, and it also has the added bonus of making the writer’s job a touch easier—less research and all that.(If only it was so easy. LOL.)
Which is all well and good, but when I first read that piece of sage knowledge I wondered how that applied to writing science fiction and fantasy, since both are not-of-this-world so to speak. Still, you can take things from the mundane world and add them to your made up world.
A beta reader once mentioned a great number of horse issues in my writing. I didn’t know a thing about horses at the time, and she suggested I go take some riding lessons to better understand them; as an added benefit, I’d stop annoying horse people with my inaccurate descriptions [you know, things like horses that can gallop all day, never spook, don’t have to spend hours grazing every day to live. Important stuff like that. ;)] I took her advice, and started volunteering at a nearby horse rescue. After two years, I now know enough to write realistic horses, I hope. I even went so far as to adopt one. I’m not saying authors have to go so far to get into their characters mindset, but even a few minutes of research is valuable.
Back to the topic of writing what you know. Another thing from my real life that was helpful in a fictional world was my knowledge of birds. Go figure.
Betrayal’s Price (from MuseItUp Publishing) is epic fantasy with romantic elements and the hero Sorntar, a phoenix, is half avian. I knew from early on I wanted him to be more than just a human man with wings stuck on his back, I wanted him to be more, to be other. So I looked to nature—if he was half bird, then he needed a few bird traits. I’ve kept birds as pets since I was a child, so giving Sorntar a few bird traits wasn’t all the hard, humorous, but not hard.
The second novel I wrote, Stone’s Kiss, is a paranormal romance/urban fantasy, and has a gargoyle hero. Gregory was a little more complex than Sorntar, but twice as much fun to write. Gregory just knew who and what he was from the get go, and had no problems with deviating from my carefully planned plot. ::mumbles under breath about unruly, headstrong characters:: Whereas Sorntar was clearly birdlike and I could draw on the mythological phoenix for some character traits and magical abilities, Gregory, as a gargoyle, didn’t have a corresponding animal or even much mythology to draw on. So I started to look at other animals until I found the correct mix of traits that ‘felt’ like they’d match my vision of how a gargoyle would think and act. In the end, while still having a fundamental human quality, Gregory also had some canine and big cat tendencies mixed in too.
My question to you—what can you take from your everyday life and put into a fictional world. Go on. Give it a try. You might be surprised what you’ll come up with.

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