Murder Mysteries are one of the most popular genres to ever be invented. What’s not to love about them? You’ve got a mystery, devious characters, and a dead guy in the parlor who was killed with the candlestick.
There are more murder mystery novels, films, television shows, and games to be able to count. So, in order to save time, we’ll just say a lot of them have been made. But if everyone is writing what they know, then that means there’s a lot of murderers out there, including yours truly. The same argument goes for paranormal or supernatural novels. I’ve never been possessed by a demon but I’ve written about it.
The phrase “Write What You Know” was meant to give new writers a general idea of what they were capable of penning. Unfortunately, it also acts as a deterrent. If you love ghosts and ghouls and everything that goes bump in the night but have never experienced it before, does that mean that you shouldn’t or can’t write about it? If you’ve dreamed about going to space and traveling beyond the stars but you’ve never left your hometown or your state, does that disbar your novel?
The short answer is HELL NO.
Usually, when people say “Write What You Know” they reference J.R.R. Tolkien’s books “The Hobbit”, “The Lord of the Rings”, and “The Silmarillion”. During Tolkien’s life he was a soldier during World War I and fought in the Battle of the Somme – one of the deadliest battles in human history – to which he used what he saw and experienced to write the battles that many readers and film buffs know so well. Tolkien was also a linguist. He knew languages, studied them, and constructed them. Combining his experiences and his passion, Tolkien went on to create the one of greatest high fantasies of all time!
But what about other writers?
I highly doubt J.K. Rowling is a witch and yet, she managed to write one of the most successful book series ever and has often been called the woman who got kids reading again. That’s no small feat. In the horror side of fiction, Stephen King is the master of macabre. For years, he’s scared readers senseless but that comes skill, not chatting with the forces of evil and darkness (At least I don’t think he does).
Good writers are able to write what they know and turn it into a novel. Great writers are able to step outside of what they know and turn it into a beautiful novel.