Write What You Know
by Saralyn Richard
Back in the day, there were certain rules a writer had
to observe. Show, don’t tell. Always use complete sentences. Write what you
The logic behind these rules was impeccable, and, all
innovation to the contrary, most writers still observe them today, at least
most of the time.
When my Detective Parrott Mystery series, including
MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, and A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, was published,
readers assumed I was a part of the country’s top one percent. Otherwise, how
did I know so many of the details surrounding how the rich and powerful
dressed, ate, drank, and partied?
Truthfully, I did attend an elegant party in Brandywine
Valley, and that inspired the party in MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, but all of
the details about the one percent came from research. (Sorry to disappoint,
but, no, I do not have fifty pairs of Christian Louboutin heels in my closet.)
How did I portray all of the books’ characters and
home interiors so authentically? I observed, I asked questions, and I shopped
online at all of the most exclusive stores (without spending a dime).
I’ve been asked many times how I was able to depict
Detective Oliver Parrott so genuinely, since I am neither young, male, nor
African-American. That must have been a real departure from writing what you
know, right? Wrong.
As an urban high school educator, I’ve known hundreds,
maybe thousands, of young African-American males, many of them as intelligent,
ambitious, hard-working, and down-to-earth as Detective Parrott. I’ve known
their struggles, their families, and their dreams. I’ve celebrated their joys
and grieved their sorrows. I’ve listened to them speak and watched them perform.
Detective Parrott is an amalgamation of many fine
young men who have taken their places in society and who strive to make a
difference with their lives. He is definitely an example of writing what I
Similarly, I drew from my experiences as a teacher,
administrator, and school improvement consultant in urban high schools to write
the upcoming release, A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL. Although the story is fictional,
it pulls back the curtain on the joys and challenges within a large school
community, and the issues of gangs, grievances, sexual harassment, and race are
ever-so relevant today.
Whether I’m writing about billionaire playboys or disadvantaged
football players, whether I researched or remembered, I’m writing what I know. And
I hope my characters will resonate with you, too.
books have you read that transported you out of your own experience?
Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard has
drawn from her experiences as an urban high school educator to write A Murder of Principal. Her previous
books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have
delighted children and adults, alike. An active member of International
Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative
writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write
mysteries. Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at http://saralynrichard.com.
A maverick principal comes to Lincoln High School with a student-centered agenda. Trouble ensues, and killing the principal is just the beginning. A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL is available for pre-order at https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Principal-Saralyn-Richard-ebook/dp/B08KWLZ9JP/ref=