Why do we write what we write?


Why do we write what we write?

This is a truly complex question and one I’m not so sure if I can answer. But I intend to give it a try, as much for my own understanding as anything else. Why do I write what I write? Okay, a quick dissecting of the question into parts makes answering it easier so I’ll just grab a chopper and start hacking.

I write contemporary romance. Why?

Primarily because I’m lazy. I admit it. I couldn’t be bothered doing all the research necessary to set a story in the past, or to develop a world of the future. I am in awe of writers who achieve such amazing stories in these settings. But I’m certain if I ever tried, I’d miss something. I’d be the writer giving a watch to the Shakespearean character in Julius Caesar or something equally as blatant to show my lack of necessary research. For me, it’s better to stick to today’s world. I’m finding the research necessary for a contemporary story is quite enough for me, thanks. Is the fact I like to read only contemporary stories relevant or not? I guess it is.

I write sweet-sensual romance. Why?

This is the level of intimacy I feel comfortable with. I have seriously considered trying to ‘vamp up’ my stories as I believe more explicit romances are selling in greater numbers, but I’ve decided its important to be comfortable with my writing.  If I’m not at ease with detailed descriptions of love making, then this will surely come through in my writing and dissatisfy readers. Writing a seventy thousand word romance with the bedroom door shut, but the sizzle still obvious, provides a writer with a formidable task which I hope I’ve mastered. There are many sub-genres within romance. I chose to stick to the sweeter end of the scale.

I write about New Zealand and/or New Zealanders. Why?

Is it because I’m a Kiwi, because I’m proud to live in such a beautiful country, or because I want my stories to be different from so many other romances? Yes, yes and yes. But it’s more than that. One of the first things we’re told as budding writers is to write what we know. I have been fortunate to travel to many countries and I often read stories in which I recognise glaring errors. The author of a romance set in Italy or Greece or USA or Scotland who has never been to those countries must be so very careful not to expose this fact to her readers. Its true huge amounts of detail can be gained from the Internet, but this cannot substitute for personal experience, for writing what we know.

So I’m primarily writing about where I know. New Zealand. Although my first story “Worlds Apart” was set in Maryland USA, it was written while I lived there. I used our family’s experiences of learning to live in a foreign country to describe how my New Zealand heroine felt when visiting MD. My next four stories are set in New Zealand so they provided me with little effort to make the setting seem real. I just had to go outside my door and I was “in” my story’s setting. With my current work in progress I have had to digress slightly. Because I’m using a secondary character from “Worlds Apart” as my hero, I’ve had to return to Maryland for its setting, but as Justin is a New Zealander I am able to continue using New Zealand as a focal point within the story.  I admit I’m relying on my memories of MD to see me through the story, but I feel confident that they are still so vivid, they won’t let me down. I’ll still be writing about what I know.

I write about ordinary people. Why?

You won’t find any Greek or Italian billionaires in my stories. You won’t even find any New Zealand billionaires. I write about the person next door, or down the street, or who you run into at your children’s school concerts. None of whom are ordinary. The stories “ordinary” people have to share can be exciting and suspenseful, sad and confusing, happy and delightful. I believe these are the people we can all relate to, so we are quick to bond with them and their problems. I’m not too fond of the Alfa male. The way they are often written up in romance stories is too much of a fantasy for me. Romance might be a whimsical genre but I like my heroes to at least seem real. Just because they may “live down the street” doesn’t mean they lack all the heroic characteristics we love.

My heroines just about always end up totally different from how I intend them to be. I’ve recently realised that I write about scarred women. It’s not intentional, I promise. I had a wonderful childhood, I have a great husband, a happy marriage, delightful children (well most of the time) and now gorgeous grandchildren. I have no axe to grind. But I realised each of my heroines decided somewhere along the line to develop sad or painful pasts which have impacted strongly on them. This was not of my making. I wanted them to be light hearted and funny. It’s just they disagreed with me. But perhaps it’s my psychological attempt to encourage women that they have the strength to overcome almost anything and to search for that happy ending they deserve.

So there you have it! I believe writing about what you know and am comfortable with makes your writing shine, it gives added depth to your voice. Well, that’s my reasoning and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for stopping by.



Why do we write what we write? — 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Why do we write what we write? - Anne Ashby - New Zealand Romance Writer | Books Direct | Scoop.it

  2. I agree with all of this, Anne (except that I do venture into the bedroom with my characters – but my love scenes are emotional, not graphic!). I too prefer my characters to be ‘ordinary’ people, and on the whole I write about places I know, although I did venture to Iceland for part of one of my novels. I also find I have to do a lot of research even for contemporary novels, so the thought of researching some past era in the necessary detail puts me off! So it looks as if you and I will continue to enjoy writing our contemporary romances!