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Writers are constantly urged to "write what you know." When writing especially SF or fantasy, that becomes a double challenge. You may be creating a profession that doesn't exist in the real world. But you can be rock solid on a crucial point. How does your character look at the world?

Writer Emma Newman, author of Planetfall, explains how "Write what you know" is actually an untruth.

"What I was much more concerned about was making the character of Ren seem plausible as an engineer. That’s what people are worried about when they stress the whole “write what you know” thing, after all. Drawing upon personal experience is an easy way to make a character sound and feel right. Ren suffers from an anxiety disorder and whilst it’s not the same as the one I wrestle with, it does have some similar aspects in terms of experience, so I could draw upon those for that aspect of her.

"In writing Planetfall, I learned that making Ren seem plausible as an engineer isn’t just about what she says or does. It isn’t just the terminology she uses or the technical knowledge she has. Those are all important, of course, but for me, the most important thing to get right was the way she sees the world. I had to find a way to convince the reader that they are experiencing the world and events through the eyes of someone who thinks like an engineer. That was the real challenge."

August 2017

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