Open Book Blog hop – Write what you know

The topic of this weeks Open Book Blog hop is write what you know. I have heard this said may time since I started blogging and writing in 2016 and have found that I tend to do this unintentionally.

Some examples of where I have written what I know, outside of my fictional autobiography of my mother’s life, While the Bombs Fell, which is obviously based on the real facts of her life, are as follows:OCD / PTSD

Mental disorders: OCD/PTSD

I have a bit of experience with obsessive control disorder and some of the related conditions including anxiety disorders including panic disorder and social anxiety disorder, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), excoriation (skin-picking) disorder and tourette syndrome (tic disorders). I have featured characters with OCD in a few of my short stories including The Willow Tree (Dark Visions anthology) and Missed signs (Whispers of the Past anthology). I also featured a main character with OCD in the trilogy I started writing about climate change and the fourth industrial revolution but which I put on hold to finish A Ghost and His Gold.

Alleries: Bees

I have a strange allergy to the bacteria carried by bees. Whenever I get stung by a bee, I develop blood poisoning within a few hours and have to have strong antibiotics and antihistamines for two to three weeks. Needless to say, I really try to avoid bees. I wrote a short story featuring an MC with a bee allergy called Last of the Lavender (Whispers of the Past anthology).

Countries of origin

My mother’s family originates from a small town called Bungay in Suffolk in the UK. I have visited the UK a number of times during my life and most of my visits have centred around Kent and Suffolk. Frequent visits have ensured that I am fairly familiar with life in Britain and, as my mother and I immigrated to South Africa when I was a child, my upbringing was very English. My book While the Bombs Fell was set in Bungay as that is where my mother grew up and this fictionalised biography is an account of her life as a small girl growing up in a small English town during WWII. The fictionalised element is due to the fact that my mother was only 7 when the war ended so I had to fill the gaps in her memories. Through the Nethergate also centres around a real inn in Bungay which is said to be haunted by over twenty ghosts. I discovered these fascinating ghost stories while I was doing the research for While the Bombs fell and it was these ghost stories that inspired Through the Nethergate. Some of my ghostly characters play significant rolls in the story.

I grew up in South Africa and have lived here all my adult life so it was natural that I would also gravitate to writing about South Africa. My current WIP, A Ghost and His Gold, is set in South Africa and the ghosts are all active participants in the Second Anglo Boer War. I am also writing some short stories that centre around South African history, especially The Great Trek in 1836 and the 1820 settlers from England.

Profession

Many of my readers know I am a chartered accountant by profession. I know a lot about life in the corporate world, especially in the fields of law and finance. As a result, many of my characters are in finance.

The haunted couple in A Ghost and His Gold are both chartered accountants who met while working at a Big Four auditing practice (just like my hubby and me). Tom, the husband, is a corporate finance practitioner in the firm and Michelle, his wife, has left the firm and is doing mornings only work in the accounting line and developing her writing. Just like I want to do. I am going backwards at the moment and my hours are longer than ever but I live in hope.

In my short story The Path to Atonement (Nightmareland anthology), the MC is a chartered accountant working at an auditing firm.

People

The grandfather in Through the Nethergate is a brave, kind and clever man and I did model him deliberately on my dad. The character of Tom was developed using a bad experience I had with an ex-boyfriend although my experiences are not nearly as bad as Tracey’s from my book.

What about you? Do you use real experiences and people in your writing?

Find out what other writers do in this regard here:

Rules:
1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

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61 thoughts on “Open Book Blog hop – Write what you know

  1. It seems natural to me to use what I know about in my stories, although I don’t mind researching about places and things I don’t know about, like in Elizabeth’s War. I’ve never been to North Dakota or lived on a farm, but usually I stick close to home and deal with sujects and settings I’m familiar with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Denise, that makes perfect sense to me. I find it very difficult to write about places I haven’t visited. I had to do that for a small piece of Through the Nethergate when the carriage went to Slavakia. It requires a lot more research on everyday things.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My mother had OCD tendencies, which is probably the reason why I’m a bit untidy by nature. I also have a bee allergy, in that my neck swells up on the inside and I have to take steroid tablets pretty quickly (I always carry them with me) if I’m stung. I live only about 25 miles from Bungay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had worked out where you live, Stevie. One day I might even meet you as we do pass through Bungay now and then. You have a horrible bee allergy and that swelling of the throat is very scary. Blood poisoning has a slower on-set but gets very bad if neglected. I can barely stand.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think most authors sprinkle what they know within what they don’t. It adds so much spice to the stories.

    I’m looking for a new blog hop but couldn’t figure out how this one worked. Does Stevie run it? Do you know ahead of time what the topic is? I’ll dig into Stevie’s blog, see if I can figure it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jacqui, Stevie doesn’t run it but she will have more insight than I do because I always just look for her post and pick up the blog hop from their. I am a bit of a spur of the moment writer so just jump in if I like the topic and have time that day.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your bee allergy sounds horrible, Robbie! I normally have a small reaction to bee stings, but nothing on the scale of what you’ve described. Stay safe!

    I will use some things and situations I’m familiar with in my books, but it’s probably a mix of 50/50.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a bit horrible, because I have to be so wary of bees everywhere I go. That is an interesting ratio of what you know to made up stuff. It seems all writers have a lot of themselves and their lives in their writing which is as it should be.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In your busy life Robbie, perhaps one day you will blog or write about life in the present in South Africa – before and after Covid – that would be so interesting from various insights you have already given us.
    I used our family’s experience of emigrating for my novel Quarter Acre Block with my mother filling in details from the adult point of view. But the Palmer family are not us, though the eleven year old daughter is a lot like me! I assured my mother it was not autobiographical as the parents were called George and Helen, not Rob and Enid!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have that book of yours, Janet, and as soon as I get through my two committed Beta reads I am going to start it. I am always interested in peoples lives, fictional or non-fictional. I haven’t written about life in SA right now because I worry about how people will receive it. First world people focus on things like loneliness and isolation and even fear of getting sick and dying. Third world people worry about getting enough food to eat that day. I don’t want to come across as uncaring about peoples emotional concerns by drawing these comparisons. I hope I have explained this adequately.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bees are definitely not YOUR friend! At least they don’t deliberately set out to sting a person like hornets and horseflies.
    I tend to add pieces of me or people I know in my books, but mostly I think setting plays into writing things I know. Even if I create a town, like Tidal Falls, I incorporate stores and scenery I’m familiar with.
    Interesting post, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Jacquie, it is definitely to write setting that you are familiar with. If you write about other countries, you have to do a lot of research about funny things like table manners, crockery, clothing, shopping practices, etc. I have noticed you set your novels in familiar places and I enjoy your descriptions.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I wondered how I could incorporate what I knew in writing about the future. Then I realised that all the future needs to be is a different version of now. If you’ve had a different now to someone else you can make it take place whenever you want. With a little dressing up, it can be anywhere and anywhen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Richard, I think you are exactly right. It is the same for historical writing. People are the same now, before and in the future. They have the same desires, loves and hates. It is only the surroundings that change.

      Like

  8. You are so impressive and such a hard worker! You left out the part about making amazing edible sculptures from fondant (or however you do it) and when I say amazing, that is no stretch of the truth. Now that I know you have OCD, I’ll ask you do do more stuff. I really think you should steer your own horror anthology sometime. You’d be great at it. I’ll write a story for it – about a woman who takes on so many projects she goes mad.

    I always have to remind myself you live in South Africa and not Australia. Not sure how I got it in my head that you were an Aussie, but I did, and now I try to remember you aren’t from there.

    Great post. Keep up the good work. As you know, I blog much less than I used to, and I enjoy seeing so many friends I met through blogging and really like getting updates on their writerly journeys.

    As for you question about putting in things about me into the stories, and what I know, etc., I almost always do. And usually it is the parts where readers write to me to say that’s where they connect most with a character, so I keep doing it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI Dan, thanks for diving in with a great comment. I can understand that the bits of you that you include in your writing are very compelling for readers. That just makes sense. I enjoyed reading your short story the other day and actually spent some time on it studying your writing style. It is easier for me to see things now that I have had editors point out certain things to me in my own writing. Like the way you use an action by a character immediately before or after dialogue instead of a dialogue tag. I am trying to do that too. I think South Africa and Australian have similar climates and lifestyles. Lots of South Africans have immigrated to Australia but we are aiming for the UK. Simply because we have a lot of family and friends there. We have 18 months to go before our planned removal.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I, too, have Tourette’s. I have airport anxiety borne of getting horrendous migraines from pressurized cabins and altitudes over 5000 feet. The altitude problem has worsened over the years.

    I’m going to try the challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My son and granddaughter have a milder form of Tourette’s, too. My dad had eye blinks when he was stressed — which is sort of like a pre-Tourette’s. 🙂 That’s what makes the lack of a diagnoses before the age of 31 so mystifying. I was diagnosed at the same time as my son.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A friend from years ago had a daughter who did hair pulling and she had bald spots. It’s heartbreaking for both the person who has little control over it happening, and family.

        That’s what people don’t understand — often you don’t even register that a tic is happening. You’re in the middle of it and someone asks, “Why are you doing that?”

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I tend to write fairly autobiographical fiction, although in recent years I’ve branched out. (How many divorce stories does one person need to write?) I do research to be able to write about things outside of my own experience, but I’m able to recognize when I shouldn’t write about something because it’s too far from my own experience to write about convincingly, even with research.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI LIz, I also write historical fiction that requires a lot of research but the pillars of my characters, their thoughts, emotions and feelings are how I imagine things to be based on my own experiences. The external factors are dictated by the historical circumstances. I actually didn’t know you had been divorced.

      Like

  11. Wow, that bee allergy is SERIOUS! Bee careful, Robbie 🙂
    I don’t reallt write what I know – not too easy in speculative fiction. That said, I’m pretty good at RELATIONSHIPS (being an INFJ), so I focus a lot of relationships between characters in my writing. Does that count?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I would think it is a rare writer who doesn’t use real experiences and people in his/her novels. If you’ve lived it, you can more accurately write about it.

    Like

  13. It was great to see how you’ve incorporated your experiences into your books and stories, Robbie. I think that when we write what we know, we naturally add the richness of real detail and we avoid cliches. Clearly, many fictional stories include made-up material, but the parts based on experience elevate the plausibility of the whole.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think most of us write a little about what we know somewhere within our writing…your bee allergy sounds horrific, Robbie I used to be allergic to mosi’s but now I am not… I don’t know if it is the garlic/chilli I eat in copious amounts but they avoid me and chase my son who surrounds himself with deterrents and sprays etc and they find the bit that isn’t covered…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What you eat may well be a deterrent, Carol. There are natural remedies for mosi’s. I remember when Terence and I were on our honeymoon in Italy in August 2001, I got attacked by mosi’s and had 13 bites. They welled up into huge itchy and weeping lumps. I had to go to an Italian pharmacy for a cream and it did help, but it took a whole week before they went away.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jay can be like that and we have tried everything…I have plants which are supposed to deter them and then the ants like them and then they bite him ,,,he is doomed I think to just get bitten xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Some of my favorite characters are ones that are based on some aspect of the author’s life, especially their occupation. Even if I know nothing about that profession, knowing that the author does help me get into the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve heard that “write what you know” could also include writing about what you study or think about a lot. I’ve never lived in Tennessee (well, I used to live *very close to Tennessee*) or in space, but I’ve thought about it a lot and think I wrote them pretty well. 🙂

    But you have such a wide variety of experiences, so it’s probably so useful to write what you know for you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve never seen Friends, and I’ve never been to NYC myself! I could easily do it – it’s only an 8 hour drive, definitely within a day of me, but I’m just not that comfortable when I go north of the Mason-Dixon line. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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