“Write what you know.”
It’s sound advice. However, if I followed it, my protagonist would be an insurance customer service rep, which is not as exciting as a pet psychic.
A better saying might be “Write what you want to know.” There will be a learning curve, but that’s half the fun. Take my Pet Psychic mysteries.
I’m not a pet psychic, nor did I have any experience with them before I researched my book. I didn’t even knew they existed. What I did have was a neurotic rescue mutt.
One day, while walking with a neighbor, she raved about how her friend’s dog had been transformed after a visit with a pet psychic. Why didn’t I bring Buster to one and see if it helped?
My first response? What a waste of money.
Later, as the more intriguing aspects of taking Buster to a psychic began to settle in, I thought I could make up some of my expenses if I could interest a magazine in running an article. I sent out queries and scheduled two appointments for my dog.
The first psychic, nationally recognized, was a disappointment. In fact, I based Frankie Chandler’s fake pet psychic business on her and a pet psychic I saw at a fair.
The second psychic, who preferred the title animal communicator, came to my home. Buster lay at his feet and periodically woofed. He definitely seemed more connected to my dog. Ever since, Benjamin Scuglia has been my go-to guy for background on Frankie Chandler’s psychic activities.
While my pup wasn’t cured of his anxiety issues, I did come up with an article for Fido Friendly Magazine called Calling All Canine Clairvoyants. Another neighbor suggested my next mystery feature a pet psychic as the detective, and since I now knew a pet psychic to help with my research and I also knew several animal trainers and behaviorists from working with Buster… .
Would I have attempted a pet psychic mystery if I hadn’t had a neurotic dog who needed help? Never. And yet, the Frankie Chandler books are my most popular mysteries to date.
The third Pet Psychic mystery is almost ready to go. It takes place on a cruise to Alaska, and the idea came while I was on a–wait for it–cruise to Alaska. Talk about enjoying the research!
I’m also working on a mystery with a priest protagonist. He’s a former exorcist who has been reassigned to an all-girl high school. Talk about wrestling with demons! (I can say that with confidence because I once was a teenage girl!) While I’m not yet an expert on exorcists, I have listened to hours of talks given to priest groups and others, and it’s fascinating stuff.
What’s going on in your life that you could mine for book material? What would you like to know that would make fun reading? Jump right in. If nothing else, you’ll beat everyone else at trivia games.
Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty published short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder. To find out more, visit her website .
Her latest book, Civility Rules, is available on Kindle, Nook, and in other ebook formats. Paperback is coming soon!
11 thoughts on “Is “Write What You Know” Bad Advice? By Jacqueline Vick”
What a terrific idea! I’ve done my share of research, but it’s been about subjects like “What books were popular in 1975?” rather than professions. I love your advice, Write what you WANT to know. I’m going to follow it right now in fact. Great post, Jack!
Now you’ve got me thinking about what books WERE popular in 1975. I’m going to do a search and find out.
What a goldmine of advice for writers and what a fun read for readers who might not know what we go through to research our books. And as you say, “Write What You Know” isn’t the correct term; it should be: “Write What You Research.” Great post, Jack.
Of course, after the research, it becomes something that you know. It’s a vicious circle.
Very enlightening and encouraging post, Jackie. I often write about what I KNOW (Bible themes), and for journalistic pieces what I RESEARCH (by interviews or other articles). But I also like to write about what I LOVE. Currently I’m writing a series of short stories for kids about what it’s like to be a missionary in Africa. I went to Malawi three times, fell in love with the country, and learned, heard, saw many amazing and funny things that are sparks for my stories. The photos I took on those trips lend “authenticity” to the tales as well. (Plus, the kids’ feed back is also priceless! Haha)
For you, I like how one thing led to another. Buster, a neighbor, a couple false starts, an in-home meeting, then a “bingo” that led to an article and mystery book series.
Step into those opportunities as they come!
I love that idea of the children’s books. Has it been three times? I missed one!
I like what you say, “Write what you want to know.” Obviously we all draw on our personal experiences, but if we were to write only what we know we wouldn’t have much to write about in many cases.
Very true. I’m trying to imagine you whipping down PCH in a Mustang being pursued by a red Camero as you researched “Vortex”. Do you own a Mustang? Wait. Don’t tell me. I’m going to hang on to that image. 🙂
Loved your post, Jackie, because Write what you know, was a common phrase. Of course I understood that when writing fiction mysteries with murderers rampant, the phrase wasn’t meant too literaly. And what the heck, writing what you know takes all the fun out it–at least for me. The “making up” events, the making up characters, the research on locations, the research on technical aspects of devices and events–oh the joy of writing I think!
I’m also eagerly awaiting the Alaskan Cruise Pet Psychic adventure, and a priest protagonist is just the kind of mystery I love reading.
As I think further on your post, I’d being writing some pretty dull stuff on what I already know–and extremely limited. As in previous comments, so agree, it’s write what you want to know about, what you’re researching and have an interest in. Enjoyed reading very much
Your research pays off beautifully in your books.
Your advice to write what you want to know doesn’t have to mean something big, like a career or another era, but something as small as a ‘what if’. I have a 40 year old photo of me with three friends from my past. It made me wonder what would happen if we gathered today, which inspired a short story that will be published later this year.