Writing What I Know
By Caitlin West
This topic has been debated forever and I’ve always found it fascinating. I’ve always been sort of neutral about it, not really writing about what I know so much as stuff that I found interesting. That meant that research was absolutely imperative. Fun and educational, absolutely but the ease of which the prose came out wasn’t quite there. Stretching isn’t synonymous with easy.
When I decided to start the ‘Avalon Nights’ series, it hit me that I should try writing about a rock band. Having made my living for nearly ten years as a musician, it was an easy set of characters to make ‘real’. Couple that with the fact that I still stick pretty close to the music scene in general, I figured I could make a modern hip take on rock stars who were very normal people and still managed to stay that way.
The second that I decided to write what I knew, the book came out more naturally than anything I had worked on previously. I produced the first part in three days. Part two took a weekend. I’m working on part 3 now but it’s only on the backburner because I had another writing obligation to take care of. Part 1 is the only one available for sale now but I can definitely say that this cast, topic and setting spoke to me on a level I had never experienced before as a writer.
I set the novels in my home town (to start at least). As I proceeded through the chapters, I felt like I was walking down familiar streets and visiting restaurants that I had frequented throughout my life. I don’t really call out names much in my writing but those who have been to Seattle will likely recognize locales and hopefully will feel that same nostalgic draw that I felt.
Picking my character was pretty easy. I wanted a Luddite singer who would fit the mold of lead singer without being an arrogant jerk. I needed her to be quirky and fun but also serious about her craft. As the romantic crux of the tale, she had to be whimsical and engaging, not so far removed from regular society that readers would lose interest.
To bring some of her real life personality home, I created the Twitter posts at the beginning of each chapter. These are there to provide some back story without boring the reader with pages of dry prose explaining all the high and low points of her young adult life. Snippets have always seemed to work better and I follow an important paradigm of children’s literature: story over specifics.
We can always interject the history of our characters later in various creative ways. People are reading to know what’s happening now and through the actions of the characters that they’re reading about, they’ll know who they are. I love that sense of understanding through choices. A person reveals themselves through how they approach each interaction and reveal themselves gradually over time.
Avalon Nights also touches on the supernatural, a favorite part of literature to me. I love the horror/fantasy thing that I was able to add and the catalyst character for this can be creepy and approachable at the same time. This was a challenge of course but it was a great time working out his nuances before committing him to page.
Overall, Avalon Nights is one of my favorite pieces of work I’ve ever written. It has the sort of drama that I personally enjoy, crazy paranormal activity, a saucy main character and a twisty plot that careens toward a wide variety of conclusions. My experiment for writing what I know worked out perfectly and while I don’t intend to always do it, I know now that I have a great fall back when I’m lacking inspiration.
I hope that you’ll give Avalon Nights Part 1: Dry Spells & Divinity a chance. See if you think I did a good job of keeping things close to the heart. I think that you’ll really appreciate some of the craziness that goes on in there. Not quite a comedy but not entirely serious, there’s something there for everyone. The best part is that there’s plenty more to come.
The gateway drug begins with a Tweet :).