THE ROLE OF RESEARCH
Without doubt, imagination plays the most important role in creating the world where your story takes place. But unless it takes place in your house and in your locale, you’ll find yourself needing to do some research - even if it’s from your living room via Google. Research doesn’t mean you stop using your imagination. Irrespective of whether you write thrillers, detective novels or chick lit you need facts, as detail is what adds authenticity, making a fictional world filled with fictional characters believable.
Science-fiction and fantasy, where you would think imagination has the greater input, are not exempt. If you want a world with two moons or a denser gravity, without research someone will pick up the fact that the orbit you’ve given your moons would create such gravitational stress that the planet would be torn apart in no time. (Mmm, there’s a dramatic scenario...evacuating a world with the clock counting down; and how many films have been made where our planet is about to be hit by an apocalyptic meteor - which is always destroyed with seconds left?). Many fantasy novelists use a medieval type setting. Again, historical research plus imagination.
Writers vary in their choice of gender for protagonists. Some writers feel they can only write honestly about their own gender; others have no difficulty in exploring both men and women as they find both equally fascinating, and feel neither exists in a vacuum. In theory, women writers inhabiting male characters, and vice versa, should present no problem to the imagination, but here is where research has a role as it’s the accurate detail you provide which creates a genuine reality.
People you know can be a great resource. If they’ve lived through a period in modern history before you were born, or if they’ve taken holidays at a location where you’ve set your story that you’ve never visited, they can give you personal insights. Biographies are another resource for an era or place you need to research. And don’t forget libraries - I found a wonderful librarian at my local library who photocopied nineteenth century maps for me.
The internet gives you access via Google, Wikipedia, etc., to any other number of online resources. I heard an interview where a writer said he’d done all his research for a novel set in south-east Asia without leaving his house. Now some may say that for the writer’s experience to be real you need to physically go there, but I would disagree. Memory, or research, when combined with imagination create fictional reality...and when you have all three (not forgetting memorable characters and a killer storyline) you stand a fair chance of writing a decent book!
Every detail of our experiences in life acts to create who we are – and we bring all of this to our writing. We inevitably mine our memories when we write. Our starting point is what we know, in the same way that the basis of every character comes from somewhere within ourselves. I once read that although our stories may not be autobiographies in the literal sense, they do tell the story of our inner journey. An interesting thought!
The Pro Writing editing experience has been intense. I’m currently working on chapter twenty, and I’ve twenty-one chapters. At first, I think I was so overwhelmed by the endless lists, my brain didn’t properly register what the task would entail. It didn't help that I felt a compulsion to check everything on the list - which must be left over from my early school days when the teacher said it had to be done, and there was no question of not doing it. I soon realized I needed to work faster.
So I put my head down and got on with it.
This impulse lasted, with a dip in mood at the beginning of each new chapter and a high at the end, until around chapter ten. From here on the task seemed to be more daunting, but I kept going. Again, for some unexplained reason at the end of chapter seventeen, even though I wasn’t finished, I was euphoric.
At the end of chapter twenty one, I’ll have to go back and check over my repeated sentence starts because for some reason, I didn’t think I needed to do this (duh?), until one day the cursor hovered over those three words and informed me that repeated sentence starts can bore the reader. Boring? That caught my attention. Although I don’t envision the task as a long one, it will have to be done.
The journey is not what I expected when I began writing this novel. Blogging, tweeting, social media were activities I read about, not ones I did. Almost three months of intense editing, after I don’t know how many drafts, was something else I hadn't envisioned. The interesting thing is though, I wouldn’t change any of it. I’ve learnt so much – about writing, about myself, about what I want to do in life – that I’m simply grateful to be a position to do what I’m doing.
blonde brown stubbly stalks
summer’s bounty harvested –
crows gather and feast
I will add these bloggers to the ‘I follow’ button on my website when I can pause long enough to take a breath: they’re all great people who provide great reads – each one for different reasons.
(Apologies to anyone I’ve left out...you’ll be on that follow list one of these days...)
http://amzn.to/18SbSaG Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry!
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
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