“Write what you know”, right? It’s one of the most common writing tips, something that writers of all ages have no doubt heard many times. It’s pretty sound advice on the surface. After all, it’s tough to write about, say, a location in Italy if you’ve never been there or studied it. Trying to do something along those lines is begging for the writing to feel flat.
On the other hand, we need to write about things we don’t know—namely, characters. I’ve found that it’s very common for inexperienced (often young) writers to write characters who are very similar to them. It’s easy to do, because you know yourself better than you know anyone else. But that doesn’t make for very interesting stories. Things will get very stale, very quickly when all of your protagonists are the same person.
So the question remains: how do you write a variety of characters?