Writing what I don’t know

While wrapping up the final chapters of my novel, I had this image of one of my characters taking a ride on his motorcycle. The nature of riding and openness of the road fit the wanderer Brett is and I thought it would be a strong final scene to tie in his connection to my protagonist Tara and wrap up his place in the story.

The problem? I don’t know what it’s like to ride.

My husband has grown up riding dirt bikes and we have spent years together watching Supercross. Many of the men in his family own motorcycles and ride regularly. But me? I don’t know what that’s like. I rode a pit bike once when we first started dating, but that’s it. I haven’t ever ridden a motorcycle, even as a passenger.

Knowing that, I almost scrapped the whole idea because it made me uncomfortable to jump in and write from several unknowns. One unknown is one thing, but coupling several together made me doubt myself. I wanted to write  1) from a male perspective 2) about an experience I don’t have 3) and how that experience impacts the character.

I resisted and wrestled with the idea for about two days, stalling a lot of my writing progress. It was uncomfortable and the first few things I wrote were garbage. Even I didn’t believe it. But I chose to persist with the unlimited resources at my disposal. Talking with people who ride, watching videos people on motorcycles, reading descriptions of what it’s like to ride, and plucking ideas from my own imagination allowed me to craft a small scene that I really feel strengthened my character, his connection to my protagonist, and gave a satisfying ending to his place in the story.

Hope an agent agrees 🙂

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