Peggy Bechko: The Absolute Basic Tenet of Writing

by Peggy Bechko

Write What Now?

As writers, along the away at some time, we’ve all heard the admonition, Write What You Know.

Uh huh, right. Well I’ve always kind of wrestled with that, but now I’ve heard it put another way.

Author Stephen King says, “Write The Truth”. In other words, write about what you’ve experienced; love, rage, sadness, humor, and write it honestly. Put it across as real as you experienced it. He points out that if you get your reader to hear echoes of his or her own life, belief system, experiences, then that reader is more likely to really connect with what you’ve written, be drawn into it, want to read more.

What do you think?

I think he’s right and it applies to pretty much anything you choose to write. We humans like to connect and we do that best when we can relate with feelings and memories of our own to what another is telling us. It applies to novels, screen scripts and even that sales letter you got in the mail. Doesn’t matter what age you are when you’re writing. If you’re old enough to put words up on a screen or down on paper, you’ve already experienced a lot of what life offers, or kicks you in the teeth with.


At age seven I stepped on a board with a nail sticking out and my big brother carried me home to have my mother pull the nail out of my foot and administer first aid (pain and fear and love for big brother)

At age nine my family moved away from Indiana to Florida. Just before we left my dog got killed on the street by a car (grief – I’d never lost something I loved). Moving day (loss, my friends were left behind). Arrival in Florida (joy at being reunited with grandparents I loved; fear and adjustment, new friends, new school).

At age ten parents got us a puppy from the shelter. Love the dog but she got car sick and barfed all over me in the back seat on a trip to see grandparents in nearby town (ewwwwww! – but memorable).

At age nineteen my beloved grandfather died (extreme grief – I’d lost a pet but never a loved one. Nausea – everyone knew about Grandpa’s death about 8 hours before I did as I was at work and they didn’t want to call me home ~ and they were ready to go out to have a subdued dinner as no one had cooked when I was told ~ thought I was going to throw up.)knowwhatyouknow

You get it. Life is throwing things at you from the day you’re born. You have accidents, trouble in school, trouble with parents, loss, funny times, snakes in the back yard, a dog that throws up on you. By the time you’re writing stories you have a treasure trove of ‘real’ stored up inside you. Feelings and experiences. Real feelings and experiences you can spill onto the page to allow you to hook up with your reader who’s had some of those experiences themselves along the line whether it’s an agent, a producer, a publisher or a fan who’s doing the reading.

Don’t think you have to be as magician and create a whole new experience bank when you have all you need inside you. Dig deep. Don’t be shy about spilling all that out onto the page. That’s where real writing comes from, where the great stuff abides. Drag it out and use it.

I think “write the truth” is some of the best advice I’ve heard in quite some time.