Wednesday, March 27, 2013
It's In The Details
As I consider the options open to today's authors, I wonder how writers of old did their research. I suppose some of their questions could be answered at their local library, but I suspect that the facts they dredged up were dry and boring. Perhaps that’s where the expression “write what you know” came from. How could they do otherwise?
When it comes to research, I consider myself to be in the golden age. Will it get easier than an internet search? I wouldn’t bet against it, but writers today are surrounded with information. We have no excuse not to get it right.
So what interesting facts have I looked up over the past couple of years? I’m looking at an alphabetical list of my self-published books, and I researched the following:
Blogging From The Heart: Although I’m a keen hockey fan, I didn’t really know how the league is structured. I needed to know about the different Divisions, Conferences, etc., and how the playoffs work. It’s added to my enjoyment of the game.
Deception: I learned about CAR – the Central African Republic; what diseases go untreated, food staples, airports, and general terrain. I only skimmed the surface, but knowing these things added texture to the story.
Fallen Angel: I researched Hellfire missiles. I needed an idea of how a pilot would know if it was too late to abort firing his missiles. It’s amazing what you can find.
Fixing Freddie: Most of the details in this book are from personal experience. When I was young, I worked in downtown Vancouver and walked the streets the characters walk. I’ve been to Whistler, and the Gulf Islands. What surprised me, however, was that after the book was released, it was featured in a gaming magazine. The hero (the love interest) owns a computer gaming company and Fixing Freddie's cover, the storyline, and the link to Amazon was given a prominent spot in their online magazine. I was seriously impressed.
Full Circle: I researched the markets at Venice Beach. Even though I wrote the story a couple of years ago and it’s been read by thousands of people, I’d still like to go there. I’d like to walk the pier at Santa Monica, where Bella and Sofia got the idea to sell childrens’ clothing. Some day I’ll do that
I could go on about my books, but you get the idea. I’m working on a book now, and one of the characters has a shop on South Granville Street in Vancouver. That’s not an area I’m familiar with, and I needed to know if there were many high-rises. Simple! I walked the little Google man around the streets and looked at the buildings. Research simply doesn’t get any easier, or better, than that.
Sometimes I look up what songs were popular in the era I’m writing about; what movies were playing. I look up Swiss, Chinese, or Australian names for my characters. And guess what? It’s fun...at least for me.
I read a romance by a well-known author some years ago where a lot of the action took place at an archaeological dig. It went on and on and on, divulging more details about how to set up a dig than any sane person could possibly want to know...at least this sane person. I bought the book thinking I was going to get a romance, not a how-to manual. I’ve never forgotten that, and I’m careful not to overdo it in the information department. What do the youngsters say? TMI? That was definitely too much information.
But details do matter. And nowadays, we authors can be more accurate than ever when presenting them. Write on!