Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Filling In the Gaps" or "What Job Would You Write Home About?"

I'm working on a story. Yes! Thank all that is Holy! I'm working on a story! Behold the glorious singing of angels and cartoon birds acknowledging this great feat!

I actually don't know where I found this image... Sorry.
But my story is about a person in China. A person singing karaoke in China. While I have some memories and experiences of China and karaoke that I can write from there are a few things that kind of hinder me: a fading/shoddy memory, not actually being in China, not having actually sung in karaoke. So, I'm going to put in some research. This research isn't going to be too hard core, like moving to China or actually singing in a karaoke contest (maybe I'll sing... but just thinking about singing in public is making me anxious while I'm sitting here... in my apartment...), but I feel it's research just the same: I'll ask some main characters about their experiences and life in China, and I'll go to a few karaoke nights at The Badlander and the VFW.

I know we've all heard the adage : Write What You Know. But what happens in the times when we don't know. Do you make up things? Do you look it up in a book? Do you go somewhere? And on the flip side: Research To Know. If you haven't been or experienced and you find out and research to know what you do... with what do you fill in the gaps? A voice that is robotic and all researched out? Do you just research to fill in the gaps?

There's an article I read in Poets & Writers about writing what you know and filling the rest in with research. It was about the different jobs one had and the experience one gains which one can then use for writing. (OK look... I don't buy a lot of magazines because of my need to buy toilet paper and Kleenex but I recently indulged one lazy sunday and bought myself this magazine because there was an article called "Why We Write: A Necessary Magic" that made me think "I could use this for FS!"... there's something wrong with me I think... perhaps not?)

All of these things got me thinking: One What jobs have you had that you could write about? What job, horrific or splendid, could you give one of your characters from experience? I've been an agricultural feed processing assistant, a juvenile blue crab research lab assistant, a news paper writer, a reference librarian. Two What jobs have you never had but always wanted to have? I've wanted to know about the circus life. Also I'd like to know what it's like to be a musician on tour, and a professional photographer. Three When you write, do you research, write from what you know, make things up to fill in the gaps, or do a combination of two or more of these things? Four What jobs or things have you done for a day or a week just to see what it was like? Have you done anything for research sake because you didn't know anything about it? I went on an Owl Institute Research outing once. I love owls and this tagging and recording outing was pretty unexpected but I could use the experience for something.

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