All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Know What You Write

This week was marked by a fun little phenomenon called tornadoes. Wednesday, seven or more tornadoes decided to pay the suburbs an unannounced visit. Fortunately, nobody was killed, the damage was contained, and for most people, life returned to normal. For those people who had property damage, lost trees, etc., things will return to normal sooner rather than later. It was rather unusual that these particular tornadoes were visible from Chicago, and the bad weather that followed did roll through the city. But for the most part this is another tornado season in the Midwest.

Being a lifelong Chicagoland resident, I know tornado season well enough to be able to sort people's responses into three stereotypes: There's the news-watcher, who will fixate on the weather reports interrupting regularly scheduled programming, examining every image from Doppler radar and every nugget of information offered by the meteorologists, regardless of whether the tornado activity is ten miles away or 100 miles away. Then there are those who want to see Nature's bad attitude up close, so they will go outside in the high winds, scan the clouds for any activity, and even drive toward the places where activity has been sited. (These people also get killed now and then) And, of course, there's the last group; people who are very passive about the tornado alarms. They know what to do, when to do it, and what to worry about and what is just hype. They don't rush outside but they don't care about the news, they just live their life. Basically, they are just going to go about their existence until cattle actually blow by their front window, or until that freight-train sound gets too loud to ignore.

Why am I telling you all this? Basically, these are my Tornado Alley credentials. I have been through a few tornado close-calls, a few derechos (look it up), and other weather-related events, so I have the experience base to write about a run-in with bad weather. My job, as a writer, is to make sure that I provide front-line details and intimate descriptions that communicate to my reading audience the reality of a tornado experience. However, this is an active process. I can't just tell the reader, "Believe me, I know what I'm talking about," even though I do. I have to think about all the little details that I have experienced, and pour those onto the page in a way that they do the convincing for me. My job, at this point, is to surround the reader with my experiences, and bring them into that space.

Now, since not everyone has experienced a tornado firsthand, their job as a writer is two-fold: get details and information from those who have been through it, and appeal to the emotional side of an experience in a way anyone could understand. You don't need to have had this experience to know fear is a factor, perhaps tinged with a morbid excitement. And like any disaster, looking at the aftermath in person comes with a certain amount of horror and awe, mixed in with the guilty feeling from looking at a destroyed house and thinking, "I'm glad that's not me." (Yes, people think that.) 

In short, making experiences believable helps if you've been through it yourself, but we can't always count on that, so write about the parts you can relate to, and get information from other sources to help fill in the blanks. Making things real sometimes requires more effort than you might realize, but it all pays off when your writing puts someone through an experience in exactly the way you imagined.       


  1. Whether I'm writing non-fiction or fiction, I always do some research. I especially enjoy using people's first-hand accounts (when my work is not anecdotal) because they lend credibility to my writing, and I feel more confident in my writing as well.

    1. Excellent that you do proper research. The only precaution I offer is to not let the research become more important than the writing. Good luck out there.