Monday, May 17

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, May 17, 2010 17 comments
Französisch is French auf Deutsch. Can you guess which language I studied and which one wants a role in WIP-2? Um, yeah, the German speaker is going to wrangle with French. (Whether you're thinking Toll! or Zut alors! probably depends on which side of the Rhine you're more comfortable.) Why do I do this to myself? I guess my curious side that likes to look under rocks is begging for some stimulation. I seem to add at least one element to each of my stories that's outside my current knowledge base. Researching keeps me on my toes, I think. The less I assume I know, the stronger my work becomes.

My entry for tomorrow's "Let's Talk blogfest" is out on a language consult right now, so I hope not to be late to the party or garner too many giggles.

Do you strictly stick to writing what you know, or is your work research-based? Where are you pushing past your knowledge base?
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  1. Best of luck with the French! I'm fluent in the language, if you ever want to run something past me. If I can't help, my husband certainly will be able to (it's his first language).

    I absolutely push myself to write outside my comfort zone or knowledge base, in some way or another, in every one of my writing projects. It's perhaps one of the things I like most about writing -- stretching myself and my style.

  2. I do write outside of my knowledge base, for sure. There are so many times I have to research settings it's not even funny. You'd think I'd just make one up, but I can't seem to. I also recently realized that I had a lot of holes in one of my WIPS that needs medical lingo. Yay for Grey's Anatomy! Oh...wait, and the internet, that's right. I research online, I swear!

  3. I definitely write outside my knowledge base--though I have yet to attempt an unfamiliar language. Google and wikipedia are my writing buddies, and sometimes even--*gasp*--the library! :)

  4. Research-based, that way I get to learn something new!

  5. Nicole: Bless you! I'll shoot you the two pages also. My expert actually has me slightly confused.

    Kristi: Even made-up settings need to feel real, and it's your research that makes it so. With the medical stuff, I advise talking to a real doctor or getting one to look at your work--there is A LOT of bad medical info on the internet.

    Shannon: The journalist in me cringes just a little at wikipedia--by journalistic standards, it is not always reliable for completely accurate info. Their fact-checking is a bit haphazard, since it is by definition a work in progress at all times. I usually check a second or third source in addition to the wiki. But then, I've been brainwashed by my grad school profs and editors-in-chief to be anal this way. :-)

    Southpaw: The learning aspect is fun, isn't it?

  6. Gah! I have soooo many elements of my current WIP that are outside my experience and require research. I guess I want to go there, though, or I wouldn't think up the dang story.
    I recently cold-phoned a broker of megayachts--you know those ships billionaires own. Believe me, I've never been aboard such a ship. And, guess what? He was more than willing to talk to an unknown writer, answering my questions. As a journalist, Laurel, I know you would do this, but maybe it's good to suggest to others that they make a list of questions before they call an expert, so that they are professional and don't waste someone's time. I'm humbled and awed by how helpful people can be.

  7. I normally stick to what I know but that is changing with my current WiP. I have to do some research on this one. It never hurts to learn something new.
    Great post!

  8. Tricia: I've almost always worked on the editorial end of journalism; my reporting classes were terrifying, but I learned a lot. You're right that people LOVE to talk about their areas of expertise if you take an interest and ask good questions (prepared in advance!). I've done more than my fair share of picking brains about being a kid in Brooklyn, clerical life in Britain, grief counseling, PTSD, photography and art school.
    If I can work up the courage, I want to learn more about a local university's rowing team by shadowing them for book 3.

    Christine: You'll be surprised how fun it can be!

  9. I definitely write outside my comfort zone comfort zone is boring! So it takes a bit of work, researching, but it's fun!

  10. I quite like research! But find school reasearch easier to complete because I have a target date. My own research I tend to procrastinate. However, any new experience I have I also consider research. I attended a native sweat and later did light research on sweat lodges for a short story.
    I guess I was suppose to let you know I gave you a shout out on my Saturday posts. I'm a bit late and still learning blogger etiquette!

  11. I research stuff all the time because I write what interests me and not necessarily what I know. I like it that way. :)

  12. Laurel,

    New follower visiting from some other blog I just forgot who right now. I write what I know. I haven't used it all up yet. Maybe after another book or two I'll write about stuff I don't know.


  13. I do both, depending on what it is for. But I lean a little more toward what I am comfortable with:)

  14. I start with something I know...either a character, or the setting or something that can be my rock. The rest is negotiable.

  15. Definitely research based. What's so fun about writing what you know? Write what you know in a completely alien situation and see how they interact. That's fun. ;D

    Wo hui shuo Pu tong hua, ke shi, wo bu zhi dao hen duo. (And since I learned some of that phonetically, I'm not sure if I spelled the pinyin right and none of it has the accent marks! ;D)

  16. Lydia: Keeping the interest up--the readers' and one's own--is definitely why I like to include research outside my own experiences too. It sure is fun!

    Lynn: interesting new experiences always raise those "I wonder..." thoughts for me, too. Isn't it fun when a new research area finds you? I'll come check out the post you mentioned. I was offline most of last weekend.

    Sarahjayne: I'd read somewhere the adage "write what you love", meaning follow your interests and passions first. Sounds good to me!

  17. Karen G.: I admire folks who can write their own experiences well. I struggle with that a lot and did a series called "The pitfalls of autobiographical writing" you could see in my archives. Thanks for the follow!

    Karen L.: I'm pretty mixed-bag too. For me, it's the emotion being all mine that's key--the situations and settings are where I play make-believe.

    Miss V: I like that idea of having a rock on which to build the story. I tend to work from emotions -- this is how it feels to go through X and work from there.

    Victoria: Excellent point--bringing your real emotions to an unfamiliar setting and/or situation. I use that kind of "what if...?" thinking too.