Write Like Shakespeare: Write What You Don’t Know by John Smelcer

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As the author of over 45 books, I’m here to tell you that the advice to write what you know is full of crap. The adage goes something like this: “If you really like fishing or collecting stamps and you know a lot about it, write about fishing or stamp collecting.” But it’s a limiting fallacy that binds imagination. As far as we know, Shakespeare never left England, yet his plays are set in Italy, Rome, Denmark, and ostensibly even in the New World (The Tempest). Ray Bradbury never visited Mars (The Martian Chronicles); neither Tolkien or his writing buddy C. S. Lewis ever visited the fantastic worlds they created (Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia); Stephen King never met a vampire or an evil clown (It), George Lucas never visited “a galaxy far, far away” (Star Wars); and J. K. Rowling never visited a magical realm with a castle-like school named Hogwarts (nor is she a witch). Writers write from imagination, plain and simple. We create worlds with accompanying histories and mythologies, and we fill them with people and characters. The word fiction implies the act of invention, not the act of knowing. Continue reading