How Do You Write What You Can’t Know?

Hello SErs. Harmony here. Today, I have a question for you >>>

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How do you write what you can’t know?

Or, more to the point, how do you write it convincingly?

My current WIP is set aboard an interstellar spaceship hurtling through outer space. In this kind of situation, I cannot possibly stick to the addage of ‘Write What You Know’. Because, of course, I’ve never been on a spaceship, let alone in outer space.

One scene in Exodus, book 1 of The Colony Series, shows a couple of the characters having to wait about 5 minutes for a lift to stop at their floor. I took this from my experience of travelling on a big cruise ship. Basically, I transplanted one experience into another. On a busy ship, whether in space or travelling the oceans of Earth, you will always find a backlog at the lifts, especially at peak times.

What does this point us to?

Happily, while we can research space travel via the internet, we can also use the experience we do have to enhance the experience of our characters.

If the character’s experience is authentic, then the scene will be authentic.

In transplanting our experience of one situation into another, we are, in fact, still sticking to the addage of writing what we know.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

ยฉHarmony Kent, 2019

36 thoughts on “How Do You Write What You Can’t Know?

  1. I agree that transplanting what you do know into situations is a good help, add to that copious research and a good dollop of poetic licence, and I think youโ€™re good to go! Thatโ€™s how I tend to write what I donโ€™t know ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is an excellent example of how to bring what you do know into what you do not know, Harmony. I think in writing what we don’t know that is important, and of course, research is always helpful as well. However, when it’s a fantasy world, the imagination can go wherever it chooses. Again, I think we will bring things we do know into it and translate them into something else. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post, Harmony. I’m not writing about outer space, but I’m deep into all-things-military and know little about that world. Other than research, I rely on the universality of some human experiences. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this and the quotes. Those of us who write speculative fiction soon realize that an elf is just a different kind of human, but what about the magic, creatures, and technology? I have a mantra I tell myself. “I don’t have to be perfect, only plausible.” My stories are about the characters and not the warp drives or whatever else powers the ship.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post, Harmony. If we stick to only writing what we know, our writing will never develop and become boring and mundane. I like how you took the cruise ship experience and transferred it to a space ship. And this is great, “If the character’s experience is authentic, then the scene will be authentic.” Good reminder as we craft those hard to write scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Write what you know is one of the daftest things I have ever heard. The very nature of fiction is surely the opposite of that? Our imagination is usually so good at filling in the blanks after coming up with the idea in the first place. Research is needed for those all-important details though…

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s the trouble when you condense down advice too much … it kind of loses its original sense. I agree … if we stuck only to what we knew most of our writing would end up dull, lol. However, we can take one experience and transplant that into so many different situations, which is why I love fiction so much! Thanks, Jay and Anita ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  8. It is good to imagine or transplant an experience to make it more real. If it’s something I don’t know I reasearch it, like in historical fiction. Then I feel what it would be like and how it would make me or the character feel. Good post, Harmony.

    Liked by 2 people

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