I have roughly a hundred pages left in Stephen King’s On Writing. It is an absolutely fantastic read–if writing is something you’re at all interested in (Do you want to start writing? Are you already writing? Are you just curious to see what a successful author has to say on the subject?) and you don’t mind a bit of vulgarity (it’s nowhere near as bad as his fiction in that respect, I promise!) I would suggest you pick it up. Even as a non-fiction book, I’m finding it hard to put down, and I have a few thousand little sticky flag things on some good quotes I want to make sure I save! (There will be quite a few posts containing them, I believe!)
One thing that he repeats time and time again is the concept of honesty in writing. (If I were reading it on my Kindle, I’d tell you just how many times the word “honesty” is in there, but I’m not.)
He isn’t a fan of the old “write what you know” saying–and neither am I. We would be without so many wonderful genres if people didn’t use their imaginations to the extent they do–to the extents of writing about what they can’t possibly know or ever hope to.
But he does go on to clarify that you must write what you know, at least a little. If you write about an everyday thing that you don’t know much about–an occupation, for example–it will show. You can always do some research, because it’s not like we can know everything there is to know, but if you’re only writing about a subject because it might sell, that will be clear to your reader.
Write what interests you; odds are you’ll have learned about it to some degree and will be willing to learn what you need to to make the story believable.
Mr. King also mentions that even something as strange sounding as a sci-fi story about a plumber is similar to the plot of another book. It seems like it would never work, but it did. If you’re honest and begin with what you know and love, even the most unique and random of ideas could be wonderful successes.
Honesty in dialogue is also important–vastly important. We get to know so much about the characters by the way they speak. Their accents, the ways they might say a certain word…things of that nature can tell us how educated the character is, where they’re from, how they grew up, basic characteristics and habits (patience, humility, etc, etc)…. So many things.
I’ve not yet figured out how I feel about the topic, but he touches on the issue of profanity here too. He says that if the character is more likely to swear, don’t avoid it or try to get around it somehow–substituting a word for the profane one. It will seem out of place and perhaps make the character a bit unbelievable.
I certainly see his point there, and it’s something to think about for sure.
Be honest in your writing. It will make the writing easier and the reading that much more enjoyable. 🙂