The Importance of Knowing Your Subject

Knowing your subject goes beyond having piles of notes, maps, and addresses. You need to know how it all fits together, how the puzzle pieces join. You have to know your characters.

Sure, there are aspects you can fake, details you couldn’t help but make up whole cloth. I feel the key though is you, as the author, have to know your subject better than the reader ever could. Do you know how old your character is? Do you know their fears and weaknesses? What’s their favorite color? Sure, these details might never make it into the story, but when confronted with those questions, how well do you really know your characters? And if you don’t know them, can you write about them?

There is a multitude of ways to help build details into your character. Some writers have a detailed backstory written out for each of their characters, details that may never make it into the story but inform the actions and decisions of the character. Other writers use aspects of themselves or of family members and friends to breathe life into their characters, to give them that added depth that makes them all the more believable.

Knowing your subject goes beyond characters, of course. The same approach can be taken with locations, time periods, and events, whether factual or spun whole cloth from your imagination. The key is to be the expert on those items so when it’s time to tell your story, you aren’t stumbling over a character trait, or worse, undermining work you’ve already laid down. 

#writing #fiction #characters #characterdevelopment #worldbuilding


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