Guest post by Katherine Ploeger
One of the roles of a writer in this world is to observe and experience life, find relevant points of interest, and write about them to inform or persuade (and entertain) readers about the topic. With viewing life's joys and challenges, in experiencing them personally, observing them in others around them, and / or researching them, writers put information together in such a way as to bring clarity, instruction, and / or evidence to the reader's attention. With this activity, writers share their expertise with their readers to help make life better and more interesting.
Nonfiction writers observe and experience problems and challenges, learn about the issues, develop solutions, and relay this information to their readers. Writers have a unique ability to identify, gather, organize, and relate all of this information so the readers can identify their own problems as one written about, implement the solutions suggested, and gain a life easier or better, at least less challenging.
Topics available for discussion (and expertise) are infinite. You can be an expert on any topic, literally. You may be an expert in your business or profession, fueled by education and experience. You may be an expert in an activity considered by many as a hobby, fueled by your own passion for the activity or topic. For example, readers might be looking for information about training a dog, keeping weeds down in a garden, weaving baskets from straw, or learning about the best hiking trails. The possibilities are limitless.
Whatever the topic is, whatever your expertise is, you know a lot about the topic because of your own interest or passion. You have been a beginner with the topic with all the questions and misconceptions or assumptions about it. You have learned about the topic through research or experience, simply "getting your feet wet." You have experienced the problems associated with the topic, made all the mistakes, which you have learned from. And you have come up with solutions to the problems and mistakes to share with others.
Your expertise in that topic allows you to write about it, so readers can benefit from your insights.
So you decide to write an article, or start a blog, or write a short e-book or a full-length book about the topic. You will relate all of your wisdom, so the readers can benefit from your experience, knowledge, and understanding of the problem and its solutions. You will write from your vantage point as an expert.
Fiction writers, too, use their expertise in their writing. However, instead of addressing the problem straight on, as a nonfiction writer would, they sneak their expertise into the story by having the characters suffer the problem and stumble on or learn about the solution that works best. They have the character make the mistakes real life people make and then learn ways to overcome those mistakes to make life better in the story.
Fiction is fun for readers and viewers because they can see how another person, the character, solves this common (or uncommon but still interesting) problem. How does the character deal with the challenge when first confronted with it? What fears are brought up? How does the character finally solve the problem or deal with the challenge? And how can the viewer or reader learn from the character's missteps or mistakes and eventual success to apply lessons learned in their own, real lives?
The fiction writer has the added challenge of inserting this expert wisdom and knowledge into the story (whatever form that may take) in such as way as to make the knowledge part of the story and not a 2x4 beating the reader over the head with the information.
Writers become experts in their topic or topics through research, education, experience, and continuing passion for the topic. And it is their job to share that expertise with the readers.
Katherine Ploeger, MA, MFA, is a writer, editor, writing coach & consultant, and publisher. She writes practical, process-oriented publications for writers of all types. She publishes at Quilliful Publications ( http://quillifulpublications.com). Her latest book is Write That Nonfiction Book: The Whole Process. She also writes workbooks for writers. Two recently published are Common Writing Errors Workbook and Time Travel Workbook for Fiction Writers. She also offers lots of free and helpful information at her blog, Katie's Writing Notes at http://katieploeger.com.