Do You Write What You Know?

Do You Write What You Know?

Some people naturally write about what they know. Others challenge themselves by writing about something they know nothing about and must do extensive research – like my friend Lori J. Swick, who writes historical fiction. There’s an advantage to writing what you know, as long as you’re careful not to assume everyone knows your inner world. Don’t get me wrong, writing what you know still requires extensive research, but it’s a little more comforting to understand exactly what happens in one area of the world you’re creating.

Why do I write about advertising?

To start, I spent a large chunk of my career in this world and know both the advertising agency side and the client side. I can give people who know nothing about this world a realistic idea of what goes on behind the scenes – the making of the sausage, so to speak.

Take for example, my fictional fashion designer, Noel Marques, who appears in both Being Jane and For Position Only. Noel meets with the agency executives and creative people to formulate his campaigns for Fashion Week. He also needs a new website and new photography. I intersperse windows into this world by putting the reader in the room with the client and his agency, so we can watch how everything spins together.

Advertising is Seductive.

Another reason I write about advertising is because it is titillating – it is limitless in terms of creativity and manipulation. Advertising can make you feel a certain way – can give you a false sense of happiness – a desire to spend money. Branding is a fun form of brainwashing – because there’s always hope – hope for cleaner laundry, a better-tasting sandwich – longer-lasting deodorant – anything you think you want or need.

And being aware of marketing and how it’s done hardly makes me immune to its influence. Let’s say a fashion magazine endorses the virtues of the color orange. Orange handbags, sweaters, scarves, jackets, trousers. That’s all I need. I’m already hunting online for whatever orange accessory I can find. They make it attractive, so you have no choice but to spend your income on whatever they say is cool – whatever strikes your fancy.

Advertising and Love

I also love writing love relationships, which are universal. We begin to form love relationships as soon as we are born, and because everyone’s relationships are different, I take great pleasure and fun in developing fictional personalities and putting them together to see how they get along (or not!). Sometimes I have no idea how a relationship will develop until I put two characters together. The results are often surprising. Take Craig Keller and Jane Mercer. There was some inexplicable spark between them – a chemistry I couldn’t deny. A friend of mine described it as fireworks jumping off the page – their relationship being at once volatile, tender, passionate and reckless.

Advertising is much like love. They are parallel universes – equidistant from that final irresistible goal of nirvana. Buy something and love it. Love someone and bottle it up like an expensive perfume – inhale its scent and feel its fineness and uncertainty – the ultimate question of how long it will last.

Sample a bit of love and advertising by downloading a couple of chapters of Being Jane here.