emotional resonance vs factual recreation, Rider's Revenge by Alessandra Clarke, write what you know
This is always an interesting one for fantasy or sci-fi writers, because, by the very nature of our subject matter, we’re not writing about THIS world. SFF includes magic or science so completely beyond our experience that it might as well be magic. How is that what any of us know?
But at their core, I think all stories are written from what we know. If not at the literal level, then at the emotional level.
I won’t be giving anything away if I mention here that in Rider’s Revenge K’lrsa’s dad dies. (I put it in the back cover copy because it’s the event that pushes her out of her comfortable little world even though it doesn’t happen for about forty pages.)
Well, my father died, too, when I was close to K’lrsa’s age and the type of relationship she has with her father is the type I had with mine.
Is the scene in Rider’s Revenge an exact recreation of what happened with my father? No. Not at all. My father died of a terminal illness in a hospital room. But those emotions? That wrenching feeling of loss? That horrible decision? That realization that the person who loved and supported you in a way no one else in your life did is now gone? That was what I did know and that’s what I included in the story.
Do I think that scene will get to readers in the same way writing it affected me? Mm. No. Because I think the experience of reading a book is a melding of a reader’s experience with a writer’s story and unless you’ve been through something like that yourself you never quite go as deep into the experience as you could if you’d been there yourself. But I do hope readers will pick up on the echoes of those feelings if nothing else.
And I think that’s what the “write what you know” thing is all about. Looking inside, finding real, valid experiences you’ve had and putting the emotion behind them on the page. Even if it happens to be in a scene involving a ten-foot-tall purple cow. (Rider’s Revenge doesn’t include one of those. Sorry.)