I saw a quote online last week that’s really stuck with me.
|—||American activist, writer, educator and commentator, Nikki Giovanni|
I’ve been thinking a lot about that. If we all only wrote what we know, there’d be a bazillion incredibly boring autobiographies on the market, and very little else. Writing what you know is only going to get you so far. But how is it possible to write about something you DON’T know? Easy. The situations and experiences we write about might be fantastical, but human emotions and reactions are pretty much universal. We all understand joy, anger, betrayal, love, loss, longing, fear, and a thousand other feelings. The trick is writing characters and situations with that understanding in mind.
Let me explain. No, it’s too much. Let me sum up. Most people are familiar with the works of Stephen King. I’m reasonably certain that he has no first-hand experience as a pyrokinetic teenaged girl, a rabid dog, a psychotic murdering clown, or a head-injury-induced psychic. Even still, he writes all of these characters with such care that we can see them as actual, three-dimensional people rather than as faceless paper dolls. It’s not scientifically assessed and meticulously assembled facts about the characters or situations that draw us in to their worlds, but the fact that, despite strange powers or otherwise unbelievable plots, we respond to the humanity of their situations.
So that’s what I took from this quote. If you can build your stories around the sorts of things we can all identify with as human beings, readers will be drawn to even the most inhuman of characters. And as a dragon, that makes me happy.