Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Write What You Dunno

Prepare yourself for "The Adventures of Chet Olmec". He's the Aztec Eagle Warrior who never asks "Mother, Maya I?" Thrill as he faces off against Lord Hueyibad to rescue his seductive and witty lover Nahuan Carlos! Chill to the spectacular feast afterwards! Feel your heart pound and then realize that it is caused by the heavy footsteps of 10,000 stampeding Meso-American Elephants, slightly smaller but no less impressive than their Old World counterparts! And they have pouches!

Introduce yourself, Chet.

067 - Chet Olmec

My point is: Writing What You Know is boring. This is speculative fiction and it's your duty to speculate. You can write about things you know, but take it a bit further, or you can write about things other people know and be wrong in a good way. Or you can be goofy and make silly voices. All Good, so long as you have at least one foot out of your comfort zone.

Also, if you don't know it all, you're less inclined to bore your reader by showing your work. Nobody likes a lot of info-dumping, and your readers will forgive a few minor factual errors if you've got a good story going. And the ones who won't wouldn't really be your target audience anyways. You can rope them in with your dry articles in Harvard Business Review.


I'm going to double down on the Meso-American elephant, a species of elephant obviously hunted to extinction by the cursed conquistadors. There is no way that this did not exist and I'm sure we'll find proof of it at some point, wait for it...

Gasp! Absolute proof as long as you do no basic research!

250 words? Yes
Flash - "Chet Olmec"
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Reading - ?



  1. Throw in some of those spiky obsidian swords and you're meso-American golden.

  2. Someone (whose name I will probably never remember) told a class of mine that you should write what you want to know. I tend to do a lot of my research after the fact, these days. I don't want to break the momentum of the actual narrative so I'll just put a placeholder in capital letters so I'll easily be able to go back and see where I need to do research or decide on a detail. "He ran to the engine room and DID SOMETHING which made the whining sound cut short."

    p.s. that's not actually a quote of anything I've written

  3. "Want To Know" does have a better flow than "Dunno". Way to ruin my post title forever for me.

    Usually I prepare for a story by reading a whole bunch of related research and letting it slosh around in my head so I can feel the vintage of the jargon, then I spit it out onto the page in just enough detail to not be accused of handwaving, but not enough detail that I anger Science.

    You don't want to anger Science...


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