Write Who You Know

Welcome to the Cow Pasture Guest Contributor, Wendy Unsworth –  Wendy Unsworth, Books & more

Image source  Pixabay

Image source Pixabay

The accepted advice to writers is very often, write what you know and when I first heard it I thought it made a lot of sense. It still does make sense, sort of…
Bookshelves are peppered with court-room dramas penned by ex-lawyers, police procedural by cops and war stories by ex-military personnel. I can see how that works. Budding writers with this kind of background have a flying start, they know things that us ordinary mortals don’t know. They can write a very convincing and authoritative line on criminal profiling or surface-to-air missiles.

But what about the rest of us? I, for example, have been lucky to travel a lot and live in very different parts of the world. I’ve had a few different jobs, raised a family. But I haven’t been into outer space and I’ve never professionally (or otherwise – I hasten to add) dissected a human being. So does that preclude me from Sci-Fi and stories that require an insider’s description of a mortuary?

img_1906No, it doesn’t, but it does mean that if I want to write a credible story about a geeky young scientist who seems like a total fruitcake but whose genius is going to save the world from a mega-quake, I’m going to have a harder job than if I had just retired from on a dazzling career in seismology. I would need to do my research extremely thoroughly. No problem. Writers do that all the time. Writers create worlds and whether it is a contemporary concrete jungle or a kingdom, so far away that nobody has heard of it (yet), ravaged by marauding dragons, they have to get it right.

So, if knowing your fictional world, with its landscape and its skill-set is not necessarily a pre-requisite but, we accept, can also be achieved by careful research and understanding, is there anything else that a writer must vitally know?
The answer for me is yes. I need to know my characters, inside out, upside down, backward and forwards. I need to know what they would do if…

With time and perseverance, I can gather the knowledge I need to create the landscape of my story. I can read other books, I can google it, I can watch YouTube and I can ask people in the know. But if I really want my story to come alive I must get to know the characters who walk there, as only I can. These are my people, I don’t want to introduce them to the world if they are still strangers to me. And knowing them, I need to be true to them every time, no matter how much their refusal to go down into the deep, dark cellar while the wind howls and the lightning flashes, messes with the plot. I need to be absolutely sure that their actions and reactions are theirs and not mine and I need to respect that.
Know who you write. This is my mantra. When an author truly knows his or her characters they leap out of the page and stalk the reader right through to The End. They are memorable. They make us, the reader, think, question, admire, loathe.

And that’s what all writers want. (readers too!)


If you enjoyed Wendy’s  post, let her know, at wendyunsworth.com, and as always, I’d love to hear from you. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Spinning in the Wind

Good morning!  It is an honor for me that Sheila has invited me to be one of her contributors  while she’s out for a while, recovering from surgery.  After consulting with her, I’ve decided to share a series of posts with you that I wrote for my own blog.  I am a psychotherapist working in a Christian private practice office.  That sounds really impressive, but the truth is that what a psychotherapist does is listen to people’s heartbreak and try to figure out a way to help them a little bit.

I’ve chosen to share my series of posts about depression, written for my “Friday Counseling Issues” posts.  I hope they will be helpful, and I welcome comments and questions.

Here’s the first official post  under the new category Depression. 

First, you’ll see me refer often to the difference between how we feel and what is truth. This is extremely important.  It is what we believe that motivates our emotions, words, and behaviors.  If you believe snakes are inherently evil (I do!)  you will avoid them at all costs.  If you believe they are beautiful and fascinating, you will look at pictures, watch movies, go to the reptile house at the zoo.  Without me.  The difference is in what we believe about snakes; it is not in what is true about snakes.

So.  One of the things I hear the most often when I’m working with depressed clients is, “I just feel so alone.  No one I know has ever experienced anything like this.  No one understands.  Everyone thinks I should just suck it up and get on with life. Everybody always acts as if I just need to get a grip, pull myself up by my bootstraps.  So I do a lot of pretending in order to keep everyone happy, when all I really want to do is crawl into a hole and pull it in after me. But nobody understands.  I’m all alone.“

Do  you get it?  Look at the red words.  One-hundred percent words, with no room for argument.  This is called “universal thinking”  in cognitive therapy.  One or two incidents become a 100%, universal truth.  With that weight of negativity in our heads, no wonder we feel depressed and, above everything else, alone.  Isolated. No one gets it.  No one.  Hear the echo in that empty chamber of your head and your heart?

I went to lunch with two good friends the other day.  They know my present struggle.  They assured me that I’m not alone, that people care and are praying for me.  In my head, I know they’re telling me the truth.  It just doesn’t feel like it yet.  But it will, because I believe it.

Most important, I believe that God is right beside me.  Again, I’m having a hard time feeling His presence right now, but I know that what I feel is not necessarily what is true.  For me, music is an invaluable tool.  I started playing my Christmas music yesterday, and it helps me.  Scripture, of course, is the most valuable tool I have, and here is my favorite passage (for today, at least!)

Isaiah 43:1-4. “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.”

Do you see how different the red words are in this passage?  That’s where I need to focus.  The truth is, I’m never alone. He will never leave me nor forsake me.  He is always the same.  Through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with me.

If you’d like some homework, use these verses and the others I’ve mentioned but not referenced to start a list of what you know to be true about God.  Not how you feel, but what you know to be truth. Add to your list whenever something comes to mind.  Let me get you started:

Truth About God

1. He is always with me

2. He loves me

3. He calls me by my name–He knows me!

4.  He gave Himself for me

See? Once you get started, it will flow.



Harnessing the Absurd


A  guest-post by K. Alan:

“When authors refer to their own writing, is it metafictional or just silly?”

I’ve  become a bit choosy about my metafiction. I find myself wading through piles of recommended readings that are meant to be metafictional, only to find that the author appears in his own story, or pulls it apart at the end sometimes detracting value from the themes.

Even, my own attempt at writing a metafictional short story, Metavoice, ends in a “cheat;” while my protagonist solves a mystery by listening to what the narrator is saying, I couldn’t bear to leave it at that in my ending.

That is, nonetheless, the essence of metafiction: blurring the lines between the readers’ world, and the worlds that we read. It’s the literary equivalent to the theatre breaking down that infamous “fourth wall,” but without the benefit of having an audience right there in the room. Readers need to feel that they are intersecting with a story that is on the page.

It’s ironic that the best example I can use to illustrate has illustrations. One of the earlier entries in a surge of popular metafiction was Grant Morrison’s now-legendary revival of Animal Man, a formerly silly superhero published by DC Comics in the late 1980s.


In Morrison’s graphic novel (dare I say, ‘comic books’?) the protagonist, Buddy Baker, comes home to find his family brutally murdered, and—perhaps like most of us—can not accept this as reality. Consequently, he becomes sensitive to clues that his world is fiction—the heroes never age, nobody ever stammers, bathroom breaks are rare—so he uses his superpowers to break out of the frames surrounding his artwork, and into the studio of Grant Morrison himself. Buddy objects that Morrison has no right to ‘play God’ with his family, so Morrison alters the story to restore them to life… and they all live arbitrarily ever after, with Buddy no longer concerned about the reasons they are alive.

Of course, more went on in the story than this; like any good superhero comic, it is filled with… well, ‘superheroics.’ Those details, however, don’t matter right now. The point is that this was metafiction with a purpose:  the reader is forced to question the value we place on free will, and whether we abandon that value at times when we happen to approve of controlling powers. It’s a startling realization that confronts us about our gods and our governments.

Startling realizations are a good reason to use any technique: even metafiction.

Of course, critics have panned literature like this again and again, and, based on my reading, I can see why. Asimov, by his own admission, wrote himself into  Murder at the ABA because he needed something fun to get it finished in time. Even respected works, such as Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale trouble me, because readers of the story undo it completely in the epilogue: they step in to make sure that we stop suspending our disbelief.

On the other hand, Amis’ masterpiece, Time’s Arrow, uses metafiction without us realizing it, resulting in a shared value being shaken to its core. He does not do it because it’s ‘cool’ (even though it is) but to amplify the themes of his work. Read it. Read it now.

I think that’s as effective a definition as any of good metafiction: fiction that blurs the lines between realities in order to amplify the themes of a piece. I’m not convinced, however,  that 90% of the “metafiction” out there attempts to achieve this.

That reaction makes me very cautious about attempting it myself. I softened the ending of Metavoice because I realised that I’m still waiting for that truly metafictional inspiration to strike.

If you liked K. Alan’s post, leave a comment and as always, I’d love to hear from you; so talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

How to develop a tribe of your own.

Welcome to the Cow Pasture, Guest Contributor Jean M. Cogdell – jeanswriting.com

Call it whatever you like, a tribe, crew, gang, group, band, or family.

It doesn’t matter because we all want that feeling of belonging, of contributing. A place where everyone knows our name.

And everyone needs a little help now and then. Even writers and bloggers. That’s where our tribe comes to the rescue.

Everyone needs input, feedback, encouragement, critiques and friends. Yes, we can develop friends via the internet.

These wonderful readers and other bloggers keep us between the lines. Because no writer wants their story to end up in a ditch.

So where and how do we find our special tribe? Those special people we can count on to tell us what we need to hear?

  • By reaching out one blog at a time and give to others what you desire.
  • Like and comment on other blogs.
  • Review another writer’s book.
  • Take a couple of seconds and share. Tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, etc.
  • If you need something, don’t be too shy to ask. Your readers can’t read your mind.
  • Reblog, repost a blog you enjoyed. Chances are other people will enjoy it too.

Have you found a tribe to help you become a better blogger/writer?

Do you think a tribe helps?

Need more tips? Keep reading.

The Importance of Your Blogging Tribe and How To Build One by 


If you enjoyed Jean’s post, let her know, at jeanswriting.com, and as always, I’d love to hear from you. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram. You can follow my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

You Asked: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Genres | COW PASTURE CHRONICLES

Last in the series on genre. What are the major literary genres? In simple terms, genre is the type of story you’re writing and…

Source: You Asked: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Genre’s | COW PASTURE CHRONICLES