Thursday, February 8, 2018

Research is Essential #OurAuthorGang

In my last two posts, I discussed things I discovered while researching topics for my novels or short stories. When I started writing, I never thought I would have to research anything. I thought if I wrote fantasy I wouldn’t have to. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Even in the fantasy realm, you have to know the basics to be credible. You have to know the different types of swords and how they are used. The basics of fighting with a staff or axes or even shooting a bow are all required if they are put in your novel. Poorly written battle scenes are usually a sign of someone who hasn’t done their research. Depending on what type of book you’re writing military strategy could be helpful as well.

If you are writing anything based in the real world even if it is a fantasy the
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details become even more important. I started writing For Their Sins as a vampire fantasy and never gave a second thought to its historical accuracy. At least I didn’t until I was preparing it for publication. Suddenly I had a complete work of fiction with characters who didn’t even have names from the countries they were born in.

To allow the reader to completely lose themselves in the fantasy of that world, everything had to be accurate. I had to research names, places, dates, clothing and yes even sailing times from the early 18th century.

I’m not the only author to do so. The detail is what separates good novels from great ones. Think about best-selling novels. In books ranging from the Da Vinci Code to The Silence of the Lambs, there is always well-researched details from the real world. Everything is believable. You don’t spend half your time wondering: is that right?

If you as a writer are tripped up wondering is this accurate; so, will your reader. It will detract from your story. A few days ago I read a couple pages from a book’s “look inside” on Amazon, and it left me wondering. Why is the main character speaking Spanish when the orator told me they are speaking Portuguese? They are in Africa. Do they speak Portuguese there? Two simple questions in the first two pages already detracted from the story they were trying to tell me. The reader was lost.

No matter how tedious research is always worth the effort. You never know when you may have a local reader pick up your book or an expert in that field. You may not claim to be an expert or a local, but you don’t want to look like an idiot either. You want the reader to focus on the story, not your facts.