Setting the Scene

Beginning writers often are instructed to write what they know. For the longest time, I never really understood that rule. J.K. Rowling obviously didn’t know about wizards and I’m fairly certain Suzanne Collins has never experienced a fight to the death. Tolkien didn’t live in Middle Earth and never saw a hobbit or an orc, did he? How can anyone create a fictional world when they live in a non-fiction universe?

What a stupid rule, right?  Well…maybe I was a bit too hasty. Perhaps I was taking those instructions a bit too literally. Maybe the rule means taking what you know and twisting and turning it a bit until  it no longer resembles reality, but still retains that kernel of truth that resonates with readers. An example came to mind recently when I visited the dentist. I know have all the material I’ll ever need if I want to write a scene about a torture chamber: A single chair in the center of a sterile room, a cold light hovering  like an unblinking alien eye, a metal tray full of bluish gray, pencil-sized rods tipped with cruelly curved picks, the muted buzz of a drill, the scent liquid metal, heavy breathing and a masked face…

Stop, stop, stop. I’ll tell you anything. I did it. I didn’t do it.  Just please, stop!


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