Saturday, November 8, 2008

Write What You Know

Today I attended the Virginia Writers Club 90th anniversary lunch at Randolph Macon College in Ashland. Dean H. King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara: The True Story of Survival, was the featured speaker. In researching this book, he traveled to that far-away desert area and rode camels, experiencing as much as he could the plight of Captain James Riley and his group who lost almost half their body weight as they spent three months crossing the desert in the early 1800s. King fell off his camel the first day--a pretty dangerous happening since his guide was racing ahead of him a quarter mile away. He also told about visiting Ireland and really getting to know people in remote communities as he researched a real life character in another book. His talk made me think how important research is for a book.

"Write what you know," we've been told over and over. That's why the books I've written and am working on now are set in places I've been, with characters doing things (for the most part) that I have done. I've never done anything as extreme as King revealed, but I've had unique experiences and met some exotic characters. My next book is set in Trinidad where I spent an exciting few days and in the Grenadines where we flew in a small plane into a tiny airstrip. Now I'd like to go back ...


Marilyn said...

Hey, Monti--you have been busy.

I agree that you should write what you know, but you can also write what you can find out about--which is what you're doing too.

I've been writing about people in law enforcement for years--something I have never been a part of myself. But I've had and do have many friends and relatives in law enforcement over the years. I've learned to observe and ask the right questions.


Monti said...

Good to hear from you, Marilyn. One of my most interesting memories is doing a police ride-along in Richmond's most crime-ridden area. The officer locked me in the car each time he got out to handle a situation. I've since used some of what I saw that day in my writing. I certainly admire you for what you do without actually being a part of law enforcement!