A writer often has the words ‘Write what you know’ thrown at them as though it would inspire great works of literature; anticipating fingers wielding the pen, or burning the keyboard, moving at high speed while civilisations and characters whirl in the ether, hurrying to escape onto the page and make their presence felt.
More often than not, in the beginning of a writer’s dream, it dampens the spirit.
I wrote as soon as I could handle a pen. Growing up, I read about magic, heroines, fantastical lives; I covered all genres from historical fiction to magic realism to science fiction. What did I know of dystopian worlds, of murders and kidnappers, of war in exotic locations, of evil lurking the streets, of police procedures, of crime fighters; of surgical rescues, of flaming buildings, of special ops; of the exceptions to my mundane, even dull, life?
Over the years I have written poetry, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels; radio, stage and screenplays. What did I know that made me write all those thousands of words?
Practical knowledge can be learned, so a police procedural is not beyond me; I’m no Kathy Riechs with a forensic background but I can do research. But any character without emotion is flat. All actions stem from within; from what a character wants and what obstacles that character faces. Now I understood the true meaning of those words. Actions are entangled with emotions feeding on each other until the scene is played out.
I know about emotions. I have plenty of them. I can identify with joy and happiness; sorrow and tragedy. A small step further into my psyche and I can also seethe with jealousy, rage, desire, passion, horror, fear, greed, hatred, obsession, anger, justice, pity, and more, just waiting for the right trigger to pull and spur me into action. My action is in my imagination where I can kill without feeling any remorse. As a writer, I find the trigger for my character and transfer that remorselessness, that murderous intent, to the killers I create. In like manner, I can harness my righteousness and pass that on to the noble heroine.
Interesting that my psyche recognises all the negative emotions but as Laurence Olivier said ‘… you have to know life – bastards included – and it takes a bit of one to know one, don’t you think?’