Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Write What You Know

© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos
People tell fiction writers to “Write What You Know.” This works for maybe your first five stories. After that, you need to do research.

The classics of fiction are mostly a mystery to me. Once in a while I decide I need to raise myself “above my raisings,” so I get a library copy of something archaic and boring and immerse myself in a little literary stew. The stage doesn’t last long. Like my diets.

One of my characters suffered through the same literary self-abuse, deciding to read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in an attempt to impress his librarian wife. Of course, for him to accomplish that, I needed to read the book.

I called the local library. This was before you could request books online and find them on a special shelf with your name on it. I love that feature. I want my grocery store to operate that way, and I want both places to have a drive-through. I can’t decide if that makes me sound incredibly lazy or incredibly efficient. (Butt out. I’ll be the judge of that.)

Me: “Do you have a copy of Ulysses?”
Librarian: “Ulysses?”
Me: “Yes, by James Joyce.”
Librarian: Silence. “You say that was Grant?”
Me: “No, not Ulysses S. Grant. Ulysses by James Joyce.”
Librarian: “One moment.” Silence. Crickets. “Would that be in fiction?”

For the same novel (as yet unpublished—and stop rubbing it in) a character decided to try to save her marriage (i.e. change her husband) by reading one of the Dr. Phil books. So I found a copy of Relationship Rescue and slogged through it. Don’t get me wrong. I purely love Dr. Phil. But if he had to work through his own checklists and therapy exercises even he would simply divorce the jerk and try his luck with the next person.

So, as a writer, my education is ongoing and wide-ranging. Ask me anything.

Better yet, read my stories. Please.


  1. Loved the librarians reaction....really? lol!

  2. Priceless. At least the librarian knew that Ulysses was Grant's first name. You've got to give points whenever you can. Right?

  3. I really enjoy reading your post. Very well written.....

    1. Thank you! I've not been a faithful blogger, but I love getting comments. Check out some of my older posts.

  4. I must appreciate the way you have expressed your feelings through your blog!
    PPC Expert