“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
- Theodore Roosevelt
What do you do to show your readers how much passion there is in your story? Of course you do all the recommended things. You show, don’t tell and give emotional baggage and personal incentives to all the characters for their story behavior. But do you believe in what you’re writing?
Sometimes we don’t get the advice “write what you know.”
Fear of appearing inadequate or foolish, even stupid –makes us reluctant to question what do they mean when they tells us to “write what we know.”
Writing what we know means we need to draw on life experience to invoke the emotions which help us to write in a manner enabling us to engage our readers in the emotion we want to create.
It seems complex, but it’s really very simple. Use your life experience. Have you ever been in love, or even infatuated with another person. If your answer is yes to both, then you’re very lucky because you know the difference.
Even those of us advanced in age can remember the yearning involved in first love. This emotion evokes empathy for a reader of any age on several levels. Older readers know a thing or two about sustaining a relationship over the long term. Most of us remember the soul wrenching need to have what we want with another, right here right now, the need burning with desire to have what we want when we want it. Those were the times before life experience and a large dose of reality taught us how life really is, and how it can be. Hard and often unsatisfying. This is one of the key ingredients to satisfying fiction.
Writing to engage a reader is indeed a difficult task. The secret you don’t realize when you sit down to write is —the reader is rooting for you, even counting on you to make their dreams come true. They want you to be successful in this endeavor.
But what if you’re writing something you couldn’t possibly know? Like a woman writing a male perspective?
Having brothers, raising male children and male friends and lovers are all good sources of information. But are they enough?
Actors study a thing called “the method”. It’s a technique meant to enable us to convey what we have lived into our fictional characters. The method allows us to put on the persona of a person we know, but aren’t really like at all.
In the movie La Cage Aux Folles, one of the partners wants to impress new acquaintances with his heterosexual persona, when in real life he is a homosexual world famous cross dressing entertainer. He seeks advice from people familiar to him–the least likely people to give him good advice, other cross dressers. In one of the most enjoyable, even hysterically funny scenes of this movie, his friends, the other cross dressers admonish him to “Walk like John Wayne”.
I would offer you the same advice. “Walk like John Wayne.”
Even the newest female authors know how men talk. When your writing dialogue from a man’s POV you know, “less is more.” You know from real life you can ask for a man’s opinion and give him several options hoping for suggestions, and the answer will be monosyllabic. Men and women focus on different goals and have different priorities. Know men approach life differently than we do is important information.
So don’t forget this valuable advice. When you’re a female writing male characters, “Walk like John Wayne.”