Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You can only guess so much

I have a question for all you writers out there.
How do you write about things you haven't experienced?
It's the number one thing you hear about when adults say they're glad they didn't really write as teenagers; they simply hadn't experienced enough. On the other spectrum, though, the memories aren't as fresh and age really has nothing to do with the ability to churn words out. Yes, experience at writing helps; it helps a lot. However, I think a teenager who practices a lot can probably write as well as many adults.
Granted, I hope I'm a better writer when I'm twenty than I am now, but the experience I'm gaining can't hurt.
That got off track. What I'm trying to say is that sometimes, in stories, you come to a knotty situation you know nothing about. I'm not talking about magic or anything; I mean the average stuff. You can avoid it, sometimes, but what about the times you can't?
Do you guess? Do you try and imitate what you've heard? I can make things up pretty easy; magic, spells, villians, ectera. I can research drug addiction or a scrapbooking hobby. That isn't hard. The things that are difficult tend to be relations. How can you talk about a relationship you've never had?
For instance, I can pretty honestly say I haven't been in love.http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3137/3067562811_1e7b7f3be2.jpg
Nope. That has not been me.
I don't even really believe in all the gooey stuff, if you were to ask me. I'm jaded. The only guy I ever really cared about . . . well, that ended badly. I do, however, like to read about relationships that work. Not in romance novels, but in your typical YA fiction. If there's a guy, I like the book better. Why? Well, it gives me hope that guys get better.
(Please, god, please. Lol.)
It's easy to make stuff up and pretend. How do you know when it seems real though?
It isn't rhetorical, I'm really wondering. I can guess. I can people watch. I can listen to my friends talk about guys they love, but then I tend to get cynical when the dude turns out to be a jerk two weeks later. I can write about crushes, about close guy friends, and about watching a friend do something stupid . . . but I haven't experienced it myself.
I think there's a reason why people often tell you to write what you know. There's something exciting about guessing, and pretending, but on another level, getting it wrong could be disastrous and turn your characters flat. It gives you little dolls instead of real, breathing people on your pages.
I don't want this kind of boy in my stories.

I want this one.

It's a picture that says twelve thousand words. T o name a few; dangerous. Beautiful. Cocky.
But you could go deeper and talk about how he was conflicted and strong and such in a story. You could make him come to life. (I have no idea about the real guy in the picture. He is pretty, though.)
Anyway, that's just one example. This wasn't really triggered by anything, I'm just been wondering. I know teenagers can write and write well. We do it all the time. I'm not posting this as some sort of hook for 'Oh, but you write so well! How could you be worried!?' I'm not. I think I do pretty well for guessing. I'm just wondering how other people do it. Even adults have to guess.
So. . .
What are your methods?


Maggie said...

I like books better with guys, too. Though probably just because book boys make my life. Of course, they also seem to make me super picky. But that's a whole different story. Hah :)

I think when you're writing about love, you don't necissarily have to have the real experience with it, with a boy, to make it seem real. As long as you have people you do love (your friends, family) you can still work off of that feeling. I know family love and *love* love aren't the same thing, not even close, but you still know how freaking horrible you'd feel if somethig happened to them. How betrayed you'd feel if they lied or told you they didn't care. What lengths you would go to to make them happy or protect them, or to trust you or respect you.

I suspect those feelings are all the same, but heightened to another level. If you have the experience of loving and caring for anyone other then yourself, then you have to have a halfway decent guess on how the characters would feel and react with each other.

Did that make sense? I don't think it came out the way I'm thinking it, but whatever. Just use me and Taylor Lautner's love and you've got my gist ;D

Kendra Logan said...


Lol, sorry, that's just what I thought when I saw that picture.

I totally know what you mean. Not as much about the love part, but other things. I always wonder if I'm being realistic...


Sam said...

Maggie: I like that answer. :) You have to use experiences you do have to figure out the ones you haven't? That's what I got out of it. Am I close?
Kendra: That's what I thought too! Jace is one of those characters that is really believable, so I thought it was a good pick. Oh, and you know, amazing. :D Love was just the first thing that came to mind. There's a lot of stuff like that-pain, for instance. The most I've ever suffered would be a bad trip to the dentist, so writing about bullet wounds can be tricky as not to sound fake or cliche. Oh, I think I bungled what I was trying to say.
Back to Jace, lol. :D

Kendra Logan said...

:) Jace is definitely one of my favorite characters EVER :)

"Unfortunately, Lady of the Haven, my one true love remains myself, [but] I turn myself down occasionally, just to keep it interesting."


Maggie said...


How come it took me twenty thousand huge paragraphs to explain what you were able to summerize perfectly in one sentence? Lame.

Sam said...

Kendra: 'There are no straight men in the trenches.'
'That's atheists, idiot!'
Lol. There are soooo many lines that had me cracking up. Seriously, I think he makes my number one character ever. (I'm sorry, Harry Potter. I love you too.)
Maggie: It's a heckuva lot easier to sum up what some else says then it is to say it yourself. Besides, your way of describing it was way prettier.

GracieTheFirst said...

I just came across your blog, it looks really cool! I'll be following from now on! (:

Sam said...

Thanks! I looked at yours too-I like them! :D

aspen said...

I really recommend falling in love. If you can fall in love with the same utterly adult attitude you have in your blog writing the I recommend sinking into a bad boy's world for six months and then letting him break your heart. You will have no difficulties coming up with words to describe any tiny little emotion that comes with love. And believe me they are too many. But don't do the same mistake I did and actually fall in love with the boy and be left with a heart grinded into dust. Try it out without sinking in, so you won't get your feelings hurt. Get a taste. Daydreaming is so much fun when you can bring back those "punch in the stomache" feelings. It is so good for writing.