Craft,  Inspiration

Writing What You Know (And You Know A Lot!)

One overused piece of advice to writers is to “write what you know”. It does make sense, but I think this logic is often misapplied.

As a sportswriter for twenty years, I learned more about more sports than I thought possible. When it comes to baseball, though, I already knew a great deal about the game. Whether from playing Little League and pickup games, or watching my friends play in high school, or attending minor and major league games, I discovered the intricacies of the sport long before my first journalism class.

So, it would appear, when I wrote The Pride of Central about a baseball team trying to qualify for the national tournament, I was writing about what I knew. And that is true – sort of.

But I don’t believe that “writing what you know” necessarily means that, or at least it does not mean only that. Sure, if you’ve lived on a farm your whole life, it will be easier for you to tell the story of a farming family. If you’ve been a businessperson for the last thirty years, you will be able to write an office-place drama more easily than most other authors.

However, you know a lot more than that. So do your readers. This is where you need to “write what you know”. And what do you know? Plenty.

Love. Heartbreak. Fear. Courage. Pride. Shame. Confidence. Hope. Despair. Hate. Bitterness. Forgiveness. Joy. Sadness. Exhilaration.

You’ve felt all of these things. Maybe some more than others, but each of these emotions are parts of the human experience. We all know what it is like to go through each of these feelings. Your story is your chance to share your expression of these seasons of life. It does not matter if you use a baseball team, a family on a farm, or a group of coworkers. Sharing what you know about these emotions, expressed through your characters, changes your manuscript from just a story to your personal expression to the reader.

If you read my February 4th blog post (I Have an Idea!), you might remember I said that my first ideas for The Pride of Central were not much of a story. It did not become book-worthy until I thought through the details. Those details were mostly how the players felt about what was happening to them. That is how you can connect with a reader who may not have much interest in baseball/farms/office life.

Not every one of my readers can relate to being the sure-handed shortstop on Central’s team like my character, Phil. But everyone can relate when he and one of the softball players start falling for each other. Most readers don’t know how it feels to hit a home run in a championship game, but they can relate to the moment of friendship and community when the whole team rallies around James after he does that very thing.

Write about the places you know, the kind of people you know, and the feelings you know.

David Bohr has been writing about sports since 1997. His stories on high school and college sports have appeared in The Harrisburg Patriot-News, The Lancaster Intell, The Lebanon Daily News, The Pittsburgh Tribune and other publications. The Pride of Central is his first novel. The book is inspired by Bohr’s years playing, watching and writing about baseball, but is also a story about the human condition and everyone’s need for redemption and forgiveness. Bohr lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Shannon, and son, Joshua. This post was originally published here and is used with his permission.

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