Sunday, June 17, 2018

Priorities, by Sarah Dooley

When I was fifteen, I wrote a story from the point of view of a 32-year-old woman (and how grown and wise she seemed to me at the time!) named Patsey.  I was obsessed with the story. I lived and breathed it and, if my best friend Stacie is to be believed, I even talked about it in my sleep.

But I had a concern. At a student writing ceremony, I had been cautioned, "Write what you know." Having never been a 32-year-old woman (those were the days!), I was afraid of breaking this writing rule by trying to write from Patsey's POV.

"I don't know how to be 32," I told my mother and best writing coach. (News flash, kid: You never will, not even when you're 37.)

My mother was silent for a few seconds. Then she picked up a pencil and sketched a quick shape on the back of a receipt.



"What do you see here?" she asked, pushing the sketch across the table to me.

Being completely obsessed with the animal in question, I immediately answered, "A pretty little pony!"

"No, you don't," she said. "You see lines. None of them are touching. They only hint at the impression of a pony."

My mind was blown. But wasn't I supposed to write what I knew?

"You are writing what you know," my mother reassured me. "You're writing from the point of view of a character you identify with. That doesn't mean you have to be afraid to take a chance or two. I'm not worried about every connection yet, not in your first draft. Give me the impression." 

2 comments:

  1. I love your mother's advice! I needed to read that today as I am not writing what I know. Actually I'm having to do a great deal of research. Tucking that incomplete picture in my back pocket.

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  2. What wonderful advice. We merely need to convince others that we are writing what we know to be true for our characters.

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