Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Robert J. Duperre.

About Robert J. Duperre:

Robert J. Duperre is a really great guy. Actually, he's not. Though he is the author of eight novels that offer a mix of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and co-wrote The Breaking World with David Dalglish an epic fantasy adventure series published by 47North. Robert lives in rural Connecticut with his wife, the artist Jessica Torrant.

Media links:

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Robert-Duperre-120730494422/
Twitter - @robertduperre
Newsletter - http://eepurl.com/Mo8G5
Website - http://journalofalways.blogspot.com

About Soultaker: The Knights Eternal #1:

It's been a thousand years since the Rising.

Earth is a wasteland, and a holy order of knights is all that stands between what remains of civilization and the brigands and demons trying to bring it all down. When the oldest of these knights, Abe, isn't trying to keep his brothers in line, he's tirelessly attempting to decode the riddles that have guided the Knights Eternal for the past two centuries.

The visions Abe's been having aren't helping matters.

The latest riddle sends the Knights Eternal after a prophet and his band of Outriders. Or is it sending them to seek the Prophet's aid? It's a question Abe needs answered. With his sanity fleeing, more demons than ever rising from the Pit, and rumors circulating of an army of risen dead, failure for the knights might end the world this time once and for all.

Where else will reincarnated musicians become gun-slinging knights to patrol a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Only in Soultaker. This book by Robert J. Duperre takes a pound of Game of Thrones, a few cups of The Wild Bunch, a dash of Doom, and a sprinkle of Doctor Who, and mixes them all into a fun, horrific ride.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Soultaker-Knights-Eternal-Robert-Duperre/dp/1945528044/&tag=rs_article-20
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/soultaker-robert-j-duperre/1124896124
Powell’s City of Books: http://www.powells.com/book/soultaker-9781945528040/61-0

GUEST POST: THE FALLACY OF “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW” BY ROBERT J. DUPERRE

In my high school creative writing class, one of our first assignments was, of course, to write a short story. Being fifteen years old and having just seen First Blood: Part II, I was inspired (in that teenage, rip-off-the-plot kind of way), I wrote about a Vietnam veteran who went on a killing spree when he returned home from the war, because hallucinations convinced him that he’d never left. The teacher gave me back the story a few days later.

“Did you serve in Vietnam? Were you ever a soldier of any kind?” she asked.

“Um, no,” I told her. Of course I wasn’t.

“Then please re-do the assignment. Tell me about something you have experienced. Write what you know.”

And so I did. I didn’t like the finished product as much as my original short, but at least I passed.

During my freshman year of college, in a poetry class, one of our projects was to “tell a story in prose.” I sat down and penned a very long form poem that spoke of a father grieving over the loss of his family, and the painful lengths he went to try and resurrect them.

I received a D on the assignment. “This is not the way grief works,” the professor had scrawled in accusatory red pen across the cover page. “Write what you know.”

A couple years later, I joined a local writers’ group. I’d written the first two chapters of what I thought would be my first novel, a horror yarn set in World War II, about a Jewish man selling his soul to a demon in order to destroy the concentration camp he and his family had been sent to.

The head of the group took issue. “I like the way you write, I really do,” he told me. “But I don’t think you get Judaism, or how horrible concentration camps really were. I think you should stick to what you know.”

After that, I stopped writing. (The criticism was only a small part of this unconscious decision; the struggles of being a young father were a much larger factor.) Throughout my time away, I pondered just what it meant to write based solely on experience. I was still a kid, just in my early twenties, living in a medium-sized town in northern Connecticut. I simply couldn’t understand how the writers I admired, who all told a wide range of stories, fit so many life experiences into a single head. The idea of having to go out exploring in the world, like I’d always heard the classics like Hemingway and Fitzgerald had done, seemed way too big.

Eventually, the itch needed to be scratched again, and this time when I started writing, I tried to do just what my instructors and peers told me: I wrote what I knew. The tale I told was another horror yarn, this one about a young man struggling to make ends meet while zombies rose up around him. But I was bored with the story, so I expanded it, told the tale through different perspectives that I wasn’t all that familiar with.

I joined another writers’ group—online this time, an old, defunct collective called the Writers BBS. I was hesitant at first to share my work, because I was certain I’d hear the same old complaints echoed back to me.

It was in the group, and looking through the many critiques I received, that I began to understand the folly of the “write what you know” mentality. What those critiquing my story wanted wasn’t a reflection of my life experience, but of a life experience. I realized, as I read through the work of others and offered my own critiques, that I didn’t need to ride along with cops to know how to write a believable police officer; I didn’t need to serve a tour in Afghanistan to portray the suffering of a soldier; I didn’t need to spend time in Dana Farber to understand the daily life of a doctor.

Only one thing was required of me: research.

It struck me as so simple, yet I’d gone through my life until that point not realizing that’s all I needed. So long as I visited the library and explored their treasure trove of knowledge, or watched and read the personal accounts of those who’d gone through the trials and tribulations I was trying to portray, I would be fine. Because at the end of the day, you don’t have to be an expert in quantum physics to write about string theory. You just have to make it believable.

And that’s when I realized the point that my teachers, professors, and contemporaries were trying to get across: Don’t dive into a project if you don’t possess, and don’t try to obtain, a basic understanding of the concepts you’re describing. This means that the advice isn’t really “Write what you know,” but instead should be, “Write what you can learn.”

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