In terms of advice handed to potential scribes, be they of the book or screenplay variety, ’write what you know’ is fairly standard fare.
Ironically, it’s a piece of guidance which is often ignored by those starting out on the rocky road of penmanship but the reality is that there are very sound reasons why it should be at number one in the newbies ‘take on board’ list.
Not only does it save both time and money on research, it side-steps potentially catastrophic flaws of the kind which will not only undermine the credibility of the book or film, but which will come to haunt you forever. And yes, that’s the voice of experience talking.
But more importantly, if you have extensive experience of something it stands to reason that your intimate knowledge will impact on pretty much everything you commit to paper. Be it in the language used, the authenticity of locations or even basic detail of the kind which will turn a good read into a great read. Thus, with all this stuff coming naturally, all of your time and effort can go into learning about plotting and character development which is, to be fair, where they should be going. At least initially.
I, of course, have followed this nugget of wisdom religiously and continue to do so. I write about football, hooliganism and blokey things because I know about football, hooliganism and blokey things and whilst I’m fairly certain that my output won’t cause any ripples at either BAFTA or the Booker Prize, if people like what I’m doing enough to buy or watch it, that’ll more than do for me.
There is however, one other subject I have in depth knowledge and experience of and that’s the military. Indeed, I’m often asked why, having served eighteen years in the Royal Air Force, I’ve never written anything remotely connected to Her Majesties Armed Forces.
Well, I can finally announce that this glaring oversight has at long last been addressed for I currently have not one, but two military themed movies in development.
As is usual with these things, I can’t say too much about either project other than to tell you that both are very different in tone and subject matter and they are also way past the second draft script stage with one actually very close to receiving the famous green light. In fact, some of the feedback on this particular script has been without question, the best I’ve ever received so I’m obviously quite excited about it.
Anyway, if all goes to plan a deal to take it into pre-production will be concluded this week and then it’ll be all systems go. Literally!
Dougie Brimson has written three award-winning feature films (Green Street, Top Dog and We Still Kill The Old Way) and is the author of 16 books including the best-selling Billy Evans gangland trilogy. His latest thriller, In The Know, was published by Caffeine Knights in May 2020.
His next novel will be his first military thriller and will be published in Spring 2021.
All his previous books and DVD’s are available from both Amazon and iTunes.
*A version of this article was first published in the Crime Writers Association magazine, Red Herrings.*
football, soccer, England, premier league, watford, manchester united, chelsea, hooligan, russia 2018, racism, racist, UKIP, top dog, we still kill the old way, independent film, self publishing, acting, author, screenwriter, screenwriting, gangster, RAF, Army, Afghanistan, Iraq, krays
5 thoughts on “Why ‘write what you know’ is the best advice you’ll ever hear.”
Good luck with the new projects, Dougie
I’ll be eagerly watching for them. It’s all about timing too.
That’s the truth!