Add Authenticity to Your Writing

Why are beginning writers told to write what they know?

Because it gives authenticity to your words. Yes, even to writing fiction.

If a writer wrote only what he/she knew, there would be no genius serial killer books written, no trips to another galaxy, no vampires, and Regency novels would be confined to those books written in the nineteenth century.

What gives authenticity besides personal experience? Knowledge and Emotional Truth.

How do you gain knowledge if you don't have a degree in criminology or history or whatever is the background of your book?


A good writer does research. Look it up online in more than one reference book. Read well-written nonfiction and fiction books about the subject matter. Absorb the information so you can write about it and have it be realistic and authentic to the reader.

Emotional Truth

This is something we all have inside us. It's what an author mines in order to make the characters "real" to the reader.

Believable fiction comes from getting the facts right and from finding the underlying universal truth—the emotional truth—that makes the books as real to a reader in France as it does to a reader in America. 

Emotional truth is the recognition of the emotions at work in the characters. It's recognized on a subconscious level, but it's that which makes fiction come to life. When done well, it's what makes a reader say your book "spoke" to her. It's what makes books popular.

Writing what you know—the emotions you feel when hurt, scared, lonely, angry, lustful, or happy—is even more important in fiction because without that truth, your fiction will never succeed. You can never fake emotional truth and get away with it.

Takeaway Truth

Mining your emotional truth is painful, but necessary.

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