Some of the most common advice offered to new writers is to write what they know. I’ve always been in awe of and intimidated by authors who go on long expeditions, travel the world, or take survival classes in order to write more believable stories. As much fun as all that sounds, I’m not sure it solves the problem for a murder mystery writer.
My body count is currently around sixteen.
If I wrote what I knew, I’d be one dangerous lady.
I used to think if I worked for the police, or FBI, or CIA, I’d have lots of fascinating tales to tell. But my friends who were or are on the force can’t share the details of their exploits. In fact, they have just as hard a time as I do getting their stories to gel.
The truth is your brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and vividly imagined fiction.
Dirty John, a true crime story that’s gotten a lot of attention recently, culminates with a young girl fending off a kidnapper by channeling a character from The Walking Dead killing zombies. Her imagination saved her life.
I don’t need to know what it’s like to murder someone.
Most of us know how it feels to be lustful, angry, apathetic, envious, gluttonous, greedy and prideful. I’m sorry to say I do, so on one level I do write what I know.
Murder in a thriller or mystery is merely the window-dressing used to tempt the reader into the shop of personal horrors we all deal with every day. If you can relate to a character and imagine her dilemma, you can learn her lessons vicariously.
I maintain a writer shouldn’t necessarily write what they know, but what they want to know.
Apparently I’m high-centered on the idea that understanding myself will help me escape the problems of life. I want to help you do the same. Know thyself is the theme I keep returning to in fiction, even when I don’t realize I’m doing it.
Dirty John has given me a new mission, however. I’ve always hoped my stories would cause people to reevaluate their perspectives. It’s a nice thought, noble even. But, I’ve expanded that vision. I now hope reading one of my books will someday save your life.
The above image was designed by my publisher for social media. Please share the love 🙂