We’ve heard it over and over: write what you know. But we can challenge our imaginations and think differently by writing what we don’t know.

If you want to break out of a writing rut, take a look at your past and present work. Do you typically write about the same type of character? Do you set all of your stories in the same location or time period? Are the plotlines fairly similar?

I often find myself writing about characters like me: 20-something women living in the Midwest in the present time. Most of the plotlines deal with relationships, either romantic or family-focused. There’s nothing wrong with that, but by getting outside my comfort zone, I open myself up to discover something new and fresh and fun.

grow, garden, imagine

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

The Tools to Use

You might be wondering: if I don’t know about the person, place, or plot, how do I write about it?

The answer? Use that fabulous imagination of yours, the same one you tap into for any type of writing. And doing a little research never hurt anyone.

For example, I enjoy writing stories that deal with pregnancy, but I’ve never been pregnant. I draw from the experiences of friends and family, from novels and other short stories, from online research, and—I’ll admit it—from TV shows and movies.

When you’re writing what you don’t know, the trick to pulling it off is writing with authority. Don’t worry about making your story match everything you’ve heard, researched, or witnessed. Write with confidence. Write as if you know exactly what you’re describing. Your readers will believe you and go along for the ride.

After all, if you’re writing fiction, it’s totally okay to let your imagination take over. That’s the fun of writing what you don’t know!

Do you write what you know? Have you ever tried writing what you don't know?


Think about a character that is unlike you: different age, sex, or background. Or consider a new setting, either a time or place you’ve never been.

Write a short scene that features this character or setting. Don’t worry about what you don’t know—imagine, create, and make it up as you go!

When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section.

Melissa Tydell is a freelance writer, content consultant, and blogger who enjoys sharing her love of the written word with others. You can connect with Melissa through her website, blog, or Twitter.

Share to...