”Write what you know.”
I think every author has heard this advice at some point in their early career. I know I did. Whether or not it is a good advice is debatable as the entire writing process from choosing ones genre to how many or little details we put into the story is individual. The above advice can seem good at the beginning where the process of sitting down and open up a vein to bleed one’s soul onto the paper falls less natural than it does a weathered writer.
I’m a geek! So the “write what you know” seemed offensive to me. How was I supposed to learn something new? I wanted to be a writer so that I had the opportunity to delve into the unknown and use all this interesting knowledge to build puzzles that would later be foundations for new fictional worlds. It is no secret that Meraki P. Lyhne is a pseudonym (that’s what the P stands for), and I have written and still love to write factual texts, too.
Delving into research of ancient religions is probably my most geeky interest, and the world of “Chronicles of an Earned” took eight years to research and build. I wanted it to be original, but still authentic enough to be plausible if one read any of the old texts and figured three words mistranslated.
Being a jack of all trades, master of none is in my opinion not a bad thing when being a writer, and we thus don’t have to know everything about what we write. But, before writing, it is necessary to research what we don’t know. I have come to the conclusion that the jack of all trades mentality is the best for writers. Knowing a little bit about everything gives us a broad enough foundational knowledge to be able to span plots and thus see where we need to learn more. This broad base of knowledge lets us see connections which are necessary for building big plots.
One of the absolute most gratifying things about not knowing what I write is the research part. I absolutely love it! Love how a small thing like the pickpocket Alex’ sleight of hand skills made it necessary for me to buy a deck of cards and a DVD with an hour and a half tutorial on how to be a card magician. I love that research forces me to leave my otherwise fortified writers cave and pack up my introvert personality to sit in a car for thirty hours to visit the Louver in France or the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium. This is both to learn more about fine art—my characters are experts, so I need to know what they’re talking about—, but also to understand the characters Pritchard and Alex when it comes to their skills in determining architectural details when planning a heist.
As parts of the stories happen in Europe and I am from Europe it is easy to drive around and take a look at all these things. No problem getting to know what I need to in order to write the books. What is difficult is going to Seattle and Philadelphia to check something out, because that calls for patience to clear a lot of red tape (getting a new passport, applying for a visa etc.), and not to forget, save up the money for a very lengthy trip! I don’t have that! If Google Earth and enormously friendly people on Facebook weren’t around, I’d have a huge problem writing these books.
But that’s what makes it interesting—having to look for the pieces of the puzzle both in the past, in the present, the future, and in the virtual world.