Unlike the rest of the resources on this list, this one isn't actually intended for writers. For those few denizens of the Internet who don't know, Cracked.com is a comedy site largely devoted to list humor covering everything from obscure pop culture theories to little-known tidbits of history. I've been a reader of Cracked since long before the fairly recent addition of the Personal Experiences category of articles, but only for fun. These are the addition that made me love Cracked as a writer of fiction.
The Personal Experience articles are exactly what they sound like. Presumably because there aren’t many humorous list topics Cracked hasn’t covered yet, they now bring in guests with all manner of unusual life experiences to share insider insight, with the help of the Cracked staff comedians.
And I mean all manner of life experiences. There are articles on weird, misunderstood, or just plain horrifying careers, from working in a retirement home to children’s law to being a juggling ventriloquist camgirl.
Then there are other kinds of experiences, like having your foot blown off with a shotgun, escaping from a cult compound, or winning Jeopardy seventy-four times.
Some of the details are very distinct and personal to the guests, but many are general knowledge that anyone in the situation in question would know, and anyone who never has been wouldn’t, which is exactly the kind of knowledge that’s priceless whenever you’re writing about something you haven’t personally experienced.
The “write what you know” adage for writers certainly has its place. You don’t want to attack a subject you’re thoroughly unqualified for, and the ability to bring firsthand insight on the matters you touch adds a lot, but there’s a limit.
Not every writer will find a career's worth of writing material in memoirs, and very few mystery writers have actually foiled convoluted crimes. There's a good chance your writing will take you places you haven't spent much real life time. Say, police stations, hospitals, and courtrooms.
Sure, these locations may be in a pocket dimension or on a moon of Jupiter several millennia into the future when your characters get there, and if so, they can be excused for being a little different from how we would know them today, but it can only be helpful to know as much as possible about their present day, real life counterparts, so you can consider the universal principles that would exist and make conscious changes from there to fit with whatever universe you're working within.
This is the point when smart writers research the official, freely available information on said setting/subculture/what-have-you, and then interrogate any friends and family with personal experience remotely related to the subject in question, to get that extra human perspective.
Everyone close to me who's been under psyche care, taken hallucinogens, attended a public high school, or otherwise taken the opportunity to get into more trouble than I have can attest to this.
But what are you to do if you somehow don't have any friends who happen to have worked in illegal underground brothels? Well good news, Cracked does, and they'll share the knowledge wrapped in accessible wit.
So before you reach that point in a project where you resign yourself to faking your way through what getting mauled by a bear must feel like, try checking here first.
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