"Write what you know"

They say "write what you know", but when you're a writer, you really only know what you read. Therefore, a more direct translation might be "write what you read".

This is the rule I follow when writing. I read epic fantasy novels, and therefore I am writing an epic fantasy novel. Because I have read so much of this genre, I know what the cliches are. Then I can consider whether or not I should be dodging these cliches.

Do I really want that unlikely young hero to join that elitist group? Anikan Skywalker to join the Jedi? Eragon to become a Dragon Rider? Harry to become a great wizard? Frodo to join the Fellowship? The Pevensie children to become Kings and Queens of Narnia?

It's been done before, so next time, maybe we can try something different. Remember "The Tragedy of Macbeth"? It is not the tale of the hero's rise, but the fall of said hero. Sure, Macbeth rose to his status, but where did it leave him in the end?

Why not consider this for a new story? The character is a good King, but one day he does something a King should never do. He spits in the face of the neighbouring country's Queen. In an outrage, the inhabitants of the King's city rebel against him, and he is overthrown and stripped of his title. The story then tells of his attempts to regain the respect of the population.

This example may be weak, but it shows that the character doesn't have to begin from the bottom of the hierarchy and work his way up; there are also stories to be found from those characters who begin at the top.

But what would make us care for this King fallen from grace? Well, we would have the advantage of being able to see the truth. We know that the King is a loving father. When he discovers that the Queen has poisoned his son, he acts without thinking, and he is then punished for his actions.

"Poor man!" we think. "He was only standing up for his son! The Queen should be punished." And thus the reader is on the side of the fallen King.
What this gives us is something different from the norm.

Star Wars: Boy living with uncle joins a reputable group and tries his best to save the world.

Eragon: Boy living with uncle joins a reputable group and tries his best to save the world.

And so on. So, by changing the starting point of the hero, the reader is wondering, "What's going to happen next?" And they turn the page.


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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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