Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Write Who You Know by Earl Staggs

Welcome to my mountaintop, Earl. It's good to have you here from the Texas plains. Tell us about defining   characters.

There’s a lot of advice out there for writers. One common piece of advice is:  “Write what you know.” That one was put out there a long time ago to keep writers from making fools of themselves by getting  facts or details wrong.  Great advice at the time, but with so much information available via the Internet now, writers can learn about virtually any subject in a short period of time.  All we have to do is “Google” it and we can write about it like an expert.

 But what about our characters?  We can’t simply Google them, can we?  We have to come up with realistic people to write about on our own.  No search engine will do it for us.  We may say we create them entirely from imagination, but don’t believe it.  If we honestly look at every character we’ve ever written, we’ll have to confess to stealing them.  If we look long and hard at everyone in our families and circle of friends, we’ll find ourselves guilty of ripping off bits and pieces of them to create our characters. Or, we may have pinched them from someone we’ve seen on TV or read about in a book.

 Admit it, ladies.  That broad-shouldered, square-jawed hero you claim you dreamed up is really George Clooney.  Or if you want more boyish charm, Brad Pitt.  The silly old busybody you put next door to your heroine is in fact your Aunt Margaret.  For us men, that long-legged, sexy woman in jeopardy pleading with our PI for help is in reality. . .well, we won’t reveal who she is in case our wives read this.  And let’s be honest, guys. When we needed a ruggedly handsome, courageous and bold man-about-the-world, all we had to do was look in the mirror.  And delude ourselves.

When we need someone for a story, why start from scratch when there are so many walking, talking, breathing models to choose from?  We’ll make a modification here and there and change the name, of course, to protect the innocent as well as ourselves.  

The guy down the street, for example, may have the perfect build and face we need, but he’s nearly bald and too short.  Easy fix.  Give him some hair and some height.  The waitress at The Cheesecake Factory may have the exact femme fatale smile and come hither eyes we want, but she has mousey brown hair and is flat-chested.  No problem.  Make her a flaming redhead and give her bigger. . .you know.

So we’re all thieves when it comes to creating characters, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  

It’s not like bank robbery or breaking and entering.  We won’t have to do any jail time.  We won’t even have a rap sheet.   Our only crime is that when we need a character, we look around and write who we know.

 Thank you, Jean, for hosting me today on this exciting blog tour.  And thanks to everyone who stopped by.  Leave a comment while you’re here if you’d like to win a free book.  On April 29, I’ll put the names in a hat and draw two of them.  The first one drawn will receive a signed print copy of my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.  The second name drawn will have a choice of a print version  or ebook of my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.

You’re also invited to visit my website at  You’ll find Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER there.  You’ll also find a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.”  Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s also one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.

Thanks, Earl. I didn't realize until just now that I killed off my George Clooney character in Diary of Murder.

Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.  Email:  Website:


  1. Loved this post, Earl. I'm giving a talk on "Write What You Don't Know" to writers this summer. After all, what we don't know we certainly can find out about or...make up.

  2. Oh, Earl, always enjoy your posts! I'm thinking I need a character that is an author, likes to write short stories, has a great smile, maybe lives in Texas... Hmmm wonder who I'll draw my inspiration from?

    Thanks Jean and Earl for another enjoyable post.


  3. OMGosh, Earl! I was going to begin my comment with the exact same words as Madeline. I laughed out loud not once, but twice. Your post is an absolute delight. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    The gift of making someone smile (while giving sage advice) is priceless.

    And. So. Are. YOU! :)

  4. Earl, You gave me smile for the day, and I enjoyed your blog. There are so many people and so many traits to choose from. By the way, I tend to picture Nathan Fillian.

  5. Earl, it's great to have you here during the mystery blog tour.

  6. Hi Earl and Jean, thank you for such a great read. You know Earl, just the title "Memory of a Murder" hooks you.


  7. And another great post! Thanks, Earl - always a pleasure! You always make me smile.

  8. So right, Earl. Killing off annoying neighbours is the great privilege of authors. Fire when ready!

  9. I know I responded yesterday, but it musta gone astray. Oh, well. Trying again.

    Marilyn, I only do research when I absolutely have to. I much prefer to make up stuff. It's s lot more fun.

    Madeline, you're looking for a short story writer who lives in Texas, eh? I'll look around and see if I can find one for you. ;-)

    Thanks, Anne, but I'm not priceless. I can be had for a plate of homemade cookies. You, on the other hand, made me smile, which makes you the priceless one.

    Marja, I like Fillian (Castle), too. Wouldn't it be great to be a guest at one of his card games?

    Mary, thanks for liking my title. I'm stuck on a title for the sequel, tho. "Memory of . . . ???" All suggestons welcome.

    Kaye, Darlin' !!! So great of you to stop by. You have a beautiful smile and my goal is to produce as many as I can.

    Lou, I agree. That's one of my favorite things about writing.

    Jean, thanks a Texas ton for letting me visit. Love what you've done to the mountaintop.