Write what you know. Or not.

There's an old adage that says write what you know.  Then there's Jo March or Anne Shirley (I can't remember for sure which) or maybe both that says don't write what you know.

I just started reading Kinsey And Me by Sue Grafton. (Yes, I'm coming late to Sue Grafton)  She said that when she started writing about Kinsey Millhone she didn't know a thing about what being a private detective was.  She said she read everything from forensic books, to law, to medical books.  She said she took shooting lessons to understand what it would feel like to hold and fire a weapon.

When I started writing about Charles Worth in The Day the Ivy Fell, he came to life and I'm not really sure how.  I don't know what it's like to be a man, yet most of my primary characters are men.  And maybe any men that read my stories will say it's obvious that I don't know what it's like to be a man.  But then maybe they won't.

I don't know what it's like to find out that you believe your parents have lied to you your entire life.  And at the time of the writing I didn't know what it was like to lose a parent.  However, I know what it's like to be pulled away from your best friend and I hope that transferring that emotion to the lose of a parent was successful.  I do know what it's like to feel betrayed by someone you care about and again I hope that transfer was successful.

There were other things I didn't know, but I did research, like Sue Grafton reading forensic, law and medical books to understand things.  I researched the inner workings of a piano, the parts and what they do for Secondhand Keys.  I've done a lot of reading on the Chicago Fire, the Roma people for Aunt Edna's Wild Rose Teahouse.

So the old adage is correct, write what you know.  But that doesn't mean that if you don't know about it right then, that you can't learn about it, or that you can't transfer something that you do know to a situation.

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