Writing What You Don’t Know

I have never been in a strip club. I’ve had offers, especially recently, but in real life they just don’t interest me. I visited them in GTA to entertain my virtual friends, but I sense the strange pixels in the near empty clubs are not an entirely accurate portrayal of these dens of vice. Why did this thought come up? While driving, looking for story ideas, I drove by a “gentleman’s” (one of the greatest euphemisms ever) club sign and thought I’ve never used one in a story.

While trying to grapple with this concept, I couldn’t quite cement an idea of what it looks like. What is it like to own it? What are the people thinking in there? What are strippers thinking and why are they doing it? I did meet a deaf stripper once. She was fascinating to say the least. The bass was pumped through the stage so she could use that to feel the rhythm. Perhaps I have my next story. Of course I don’t write this blog in stream of consciousness.

Either way, it made me realize something fun and exciting about writers: we are researchers. Or the alternative is we are okay writers. How do we write a spec ops thriller when we don’t have the experience of Tom Clancy? There is a reason his books do so well: he has lived it. For the rest of us we have to do research. We are book worms, even if we aren’t reading for fun. Recently I had to look into what it takes to build a well or make a farm. Another story had me reading Norse mythology and looking into runes and the language.

Action thrillers need to have a basic idea of weapons, fighting, human reactions to stress, even if exaggerated to immense proportions. A survival story better show some knowledge of issues in the wilderness. When writing about a strip club, I just need to visit. But I’d rather not.

Instead I’ll likely look through some interior photos on designer sites (a lot of good settings can come from looking at designer, furniture, and other interior and architectural firms have done). After that, to be honest, I have very little idea where to look for inspiration. But isn’t that the exciting part? Isn’t that a part of the reason we write? We see something interesting, research it, and then write about it as if we truly know about it. Sometimes we fail, sure, but the fun part is trying and learning.

As an aside, I really don’t plan on going to a strip club. I’m just not that kind of guy. Generally.

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