Write the Book You Want to Read

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woman-reading-bookOf all the stresses of being a writer: finding an agent, editing, making time to write, submitting query letters and proposals, the first dilemma is finding something to write about. People always say write what you know. I don’t know about you, but writing is one way for me to escape what I know. I already live, eat, breathe insurance, I don’t want to write about it. Does anyone out there want to read about an insurance agent who works six days a week selling and servicing policies? In case you’re intrigued, it goes a little something like this:

Customer: “I’m here to make a payment.”

Agent: “Will that be with a credit card or check today?”

Customer: “Card.”

Agent: “Here’s your reciept.”

Customer: “Thanks.”

Agent: “See you next month.”

Repeat that about five times a day with the occasional claim call, general question, and about three hours of down time and you have the day and life of the insurance agent. The stuff of a New York Times bestseller … maybe not. Maybe you’d be more interested if I was an insurance agent by day, vampire by night or some kind of insurance mob boss threatening everyone in town to buy insurance policies from my company using scare tactics and threats and sending horse heads to the beds of my competitors.

My inspiration usually doesn’t come from my life. I haven’t written a word that I could credit to four years of college, more than five jobs, and the occasional trip out of state. My inspiration usually strikes right after reading. I’m not a plagarist or anything; it’s not that I want to replicate a story I’ve read, I want to write what I think should have happened. Have you ever read something and wished there were more stories similar to the one you just read (This is why I like fanfic), or have you ever wished the author had gone in the direction you thought the plot was going? My current project is actually inspired by reading fanciton based on one of my favorite books. If you’re like me, you’ve spent hours in the library or bookstore trying to find a book that appeals to you:. Sometimes I just go through a dry spell where I can’t find anything. So I asked myself, what do you like to read. Just write it yourself.

Write what you want to read. You may love young adult fiction or historical fiction. My personal favorite genre is fantasy, not that there is a short supply of fantasy. Quite the opposite. So I should be able to find a book I like, ideally. The problem is I don’t like your run of the mill fantasy: dragons, magic, wizards, items of power, prophesies, and chosen ones. Yes, I realize most of this is in the Lord of the Rings, which I love, but the fantasy genre is over saturated with these elements.

For starters, my favorite characters are elves. Now I know a lot of people say they are tired of elves, which I don’t understand because for one thing they are awesome, and aside from Tolkien and R.A. Salvatore, I really don’t think there are that many books that have elves, or at least not as main characters. But if you would like to prove me wrong, please send me a list and I will gladly read from that list. Main characters in fantasy are often humans, so I have chosen to write a series where the primary charcters are mostly elves. My elves are also more naturalistic and do not possess magic of any kind because magic is another element I think is overdone. Another thing I notice in fantasy is that elves and humans are almost always allies, villains are ugly, and good guys are pretty. This is a really flat and shallow way of deciding who is good and who is not. Also why should someone be all good and all bad? Aren’t we all a combination of good/bad traits? Likewise, we have ugly/beautiful physical characteristics? Good and bad being cut and dry and black and white is for Santa, not literature. I dare anyone to find a character in my novels who is completely evil or good.

One thing I can’t get enough of (and I’m sure you can’t either) are awesome relationship dynamics. Fantasy and Sci-fi have the greatest friendships, romances, and oppositions steeped in hate, respect, honor, betrayal. Characters always seem to be conflicted. Someone who seems to be infatuated by a character may be on the cusp on killing them. Likewise, the villain about to kill his enemy lets him go out of a mutual respect. The greatest relationships in fantasy are by far the friendships. People are willing to go on incredible journies and face amazing peril for one another. Just look at Sam and Frodo in the Lord of the Rings. Their love was evident in the books–and really played up in the movies. Those are the kind of relationships I like to read about and, therefore, write about. If my characters had facebook pages, their relationship status would almost always be “complicated.” Unlikely friendships form, long-lasting friendships end, love is often not obtained.

I hope many of you will agree with me that the fantasy genre needs more strong women. Not another girl defying gender roles. What I want to read about is a world where gender roles don’t exist. How refreshing it would be to read a book where a girl didn’t have to overcome society to be an interesting character. Where a story is not a celebration of men. I get frustrated with the fantasy genre in particular because authors have the abillity to create their own worlds, their own cities, their own rules and yet they typically emulate the societal norms of the midevil era. It is fantasy, you can make up your own rules, and that’s just what I’ve done. I don’t want to have a society where your role is limited on your gender. Women can be soldiers for instance. It makes sense in my world because my humans don’t believe in a God and one of the primary reasons we even have gender issues, even today, is because of the Bible. So eliminate religion, eliminate harsh, overstrict gender roles. I just think it’s refreshing to read a book where gender is not an issue.

When my series is finished I hope they will not only be books I like to read, but books readers will enjoy as well.

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4 thoughts on “Write the Book You Want to Read

  1. Great post. I completely agree that writing what you know doesn’t always work, unless you were in the SAS or are a recently retired detective. Personally, as a bartender (and a mediocre one at best :D) it’s very difficult to get much inspiration from work, other than some interesting observations of conversations (yes bartenders do evesdrop lol). Like yourself, I much prefer to lose myself in my writing and use it as escapism.

  2. I used to write what I know. I kept a journal : ) It got so mundane I’d go months without writing in it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like my life. I’m content. I have a wonderful family, secure job, and a nice little place I call home. Luckily my life doesn’t have the drama and suspense that is needed to make a good story.

  3. I agree. Fantasy is a genre like a huge playground authors could romp freely, but everything just sits on the swings. Personally, I get sick of social norms and gender norms mirroring our own. Who cares if women are fighting. On that note, I am reading a fantasy series in which men and women are soldiers and it’s not pointed out. When a woman soldier enters the story they don’t say ‘female soldier’ or anything silly like that, they just use the pronoun ‘she’ when the soldier is referred to. Very natural. So refreshing.

  4. I completely agree. Writing only what you know not only gets to be mundane, but it really limits you as an author. It doesn’t allow you to develop your writing skills as much, and the idea doesn’t carry over well to different genres like fantasy, where whole worlds and creatures are made up.

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