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Weekly Writing Prompt: “Should You Go With What You Know?”

The key to writing well is being well-informed. If you write from what you know, your are more likely to establish yourself as a trustworthy voice, which is integral to keeping your readers coming back for more. At least, that’s what we’ve all been told.

In this week’s prompt, we invite you to test the theory that our writing is most credible when we go with what we know.

The Prompt:

Describe or portray a place or setting that is very familiar to you, then do the same for a place or setting with which you are unfamiliar. Don’t do research in preparation for either description and do not pull in any outside sources. After writing both, read them over.

  • Which seems more believable to you?

Ask several other people to read your descriptions over, as well, but don’t tell them which is which. Then ask them some questions about what they read:

  • Which one do you they think is more believable?
  • Which one seems more vivid to them?
  • What could you do to to make both descriptions seem more vivid and credible?
  • Can they guess which place or setting is familiar to you and which isn’t?
  • Have any of your readers been to either of the places you described or found themselves in settings similar to the ones you portrayed?

Chances are good that the your readers will be drawn to the description of the place or setting that you are most familiar with, because the depth and certainty of your understanding will come through in your writing. The description of the place or setting that was not familiar to you, on the other hand, is likely to contain inaccuracies and uncertainties that can throw your readers off.

What if you want to write about something that lies outside your field of knowledge, though? Certainly writing about things that are familiar to you is the safest bet for establishing your readers’ trust, but staying inside our comfort zone is neither any fun for our readers nor very good for us writers. It just doesn’t stretch our creative muscles enough.

It turns out that there is a simple solution to this problem. Writers today have a massive data base of information and experience at their fingertips.

So, if you don’t know what you need to know to make your writing topnotch, then grow what you know!

(Hint: We’ve got prompts for that coming soon!)

>> Back to Writing Prompts


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(Roggen Wulf, 2014)

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