2 Truths and a Buy: Write What You Know

I believe that elements of truth breathes the soul into writing. Truth makes the writing real and irresistible. It makes readers want to reach out, hug, and adopt it into their family tree… never to be tossed in a DI bin. Do you want to encourage readers to buy into your writing?

Well then, put a little truth in your writing.

Ok, all of you fiction writers don’t tune out yet.

As a non-fiction writer I have come to feel the power of truth. My type of writing is solely based on truth. However, you don’t have to write non-fiction to breathe soul into your writing. You just need to write what you know.

Yadda, yadda. I know we have all heard this before but there is power to writing this way. Weave elements of truth into your writing and you’re well on your way to being a successful writer.


Ultimate Example of How to Write Truths into Fiction Genres:

I visited the home of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) last summer. He was known as one of the great humorist writers of his time. I was impressed with a plaque I found in Hannibal, Missouri, near his boyhood home. I realized it was a key to his success:

“As a writer in the 1870s, Mark Twain returned to this house in his memory. He used his imagination to turn the people, places, and events of his childhood into stories that captured the soul of America.”

Truth. He wrote of the truth of a place and time in Hannibal, Missouri. The truth of a boy exploring caves and neighbor crushes and childhood whitewashing fence pretenses. He tuned into his boyhood self and wrote what he knew and experienced… or what he wished would have happened.

Mark Twain was a master at inking in elements of truth. Here are a few simple ways to imitate the great and pull some truth into your writing.

Truth of Imagination

Think about when you were a kid. Did you totally believe the truth of some far-fetched idea? I full heartedly believed there was some meek, sleek-maned, lion in my attic. In my mind he was nice- though I never wanted to be near him. I was also convinced that snow had different flavors: lemon, lime, orange, whatever (and no, I never ate yellow snow… thanks for asking). But I could actually taste them because the power of my mind convinced me so. And my sister in law believed that they used cat hair to make cement for sidewalks.

So, to tap into the beliefs of a certain time period makes the writing real and relatable. This is a simple way to use truth in your writing. Use the truth of your imagination when you were a child, a teen, an adult, what you envisioned marriage to be, etc. Whatever. Use your self- believed truths to make your story come to life.

Mark Twain was a ring leader at this.

Truth of a Setting

Let yourself visit new places. Even new places in your own town can inspire a great setting. So, here are a few key elements I learned while visiting Hannibal, Missouri. It’s the truth of how a setting can play into creating a piece of writing.

Ok, so we decided to visit the lighthouse at the top of the hill. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea on this vacation. Afterall, we decided to visit Hannibal on the day where the other visitors claimed it to be the highest humidity they have had in years.

Great. Fabulous.

I’m a dry heat girl. But, I didn’t know I was a dry heat girl until this day, I actually didn’t know it until I climbed all 244 stairs to the top where the lighthouse overlooked the Mississippi River. There were three sets of steep stairs to a large platform.

All I could think of was accelerated death by accelerated breaths. (My health condition hates stairs. I was going to prove it wrong. Yeah, um… didn’t.)


Once we got to the top I realized one horrible truth: there was a driveway and a parking lot before the last set of stairs. I wanted to cry (though you would never know if I was by the rivers of sweat glistening in the sun) but I laughed instead. I laughed because why on earth would you not tell people about the drive up to the lighthouse. There must have been a spy camera recording everyone’s reactions when they discovered this little… truth.

Funny. Yeah, real funny.

Isn’t that like writing? We sweat and climb the writing steps to the top and realize that all along there was a shortcut. But, really you don’t come to know the shortcut until you actually climb the writing stairs to the top. The more you write the better you get and what used to take you hours becomes a quick drive to the top.

Just keep doing the writing steps and the shortcut will come naturally.

Take the elements of a setting you know and create a piece of writing that shouts the truth of what you learned in a particular setting. Settings are great ways to add some truth to your writing.

Share What You Know/ Get a Buy:

Take what is real and turn it into something that will capture the soul of America. This method will help people to buy into your writing. Everyone likes truth.

It’s so simple. Mark Twain became a well-known writer with a big fan base because he wrote what he knew then livened it up with his imagination. (And this is where I get stuck… I have to just write non-fiction. Props to you fiction writers.)

Take a great lesson from Mark Twain and use the truth of your imagination and a setting to give your writing a little more oomph. You want more powerful writing? Put these 2 little truths into it and maybe you will get a buy.

Challenge yourself this week to add a little truth to your writing.


Christie Perkins is a survivor of boy humor, chemo, and faulty recipes. She loves freelance writing and is a nonfiction junkie. A couple of national magazines have paid her for her work but her biggest paycheck is her incredible family. Christie hates spiders, the dark, and Shepherd’s Pie. Bleh. Mood boosters: white daisies, playing basketball, and peanut butter M&M’s. You can find out more about her at howperkyworks.com