Thursday, 8 October 2015

Authoring 101: Researching Content

Researching is one of those things you must do. Must.

You know the funny thing about readers? They are some of the smartest people you’ll meet. They also come from everywhere, so it means research is key.

Readers like a book that holds a lot of detail, whether they are reading a contemporary or fantasy you need to research the hell out of what you write.

In contemporary, you’d think it would be easier as it’s the time you’re in and in a lot of ways that’s true. If you put your characters into your town at your age then I agree it’s easy. And for a lot, even if you’re older and you’re doing younger characters you can get away with how you talk even if that’s not really true to your surroundings. You talk about how kids these days dress or talk, and though you’re criticizing them, you talk like yourself, but saying your early twenties, well for an early twenty year old you sound…. well old.

If you want to put your characters in a different town, then you need to research it. You need to understand where everything is, maps and such and as google has a ground view, it makes that a whole lot easier. You also need to research the way they talk or ask people to help you. This is especially important when you put your characters into a different country. Please stop assuming you understand things about another country because you watched them a handful of times on television. The thing is people who live in that town, that area become a part of your story and it’s very distracting if you’re spending the whole time shaking your head at the stupidity of what’s happening.

And this is all outside learning and researching what you’re actually writing about. Eg. Farming, racing, carpentering ect.

This is also important when it comes to sci-fi or fantasy.

Yeah, you understand that the world needs to be built, though it’s probably a very good idea to always be writing down details of things over what your character has described.

Honestly world building is extremely important in fantasy, it’s a reason a lot of people read it, because they love the world they are stepping into, so you need to build it up for them. This, I think, helps greatly if you are a very visual person as your world would already be a living thing for you, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend a day or two writing down the world. Create the world on paper; maybe use a large piece or some joint together to really map out what it looks like. Then use sticky notes on parts, explaining those bits with more details. Especially if you are going to use them in your story.

But that’s just an example.

Saying this you still need to research. You need to research the terrain, especially if your characters are going on a journey. The world you just created: does it have mountains and forests? You need to make sure they are the same in real life. The crackling of the leaves or brush rubbish. What animals are going to be around, what sounds do they make?

You also need to research the clothes they are wearing, though I doubt that’s completely important as long as you have a lot more say in what your fantasy place will look like and what century they will be in.

Are you getting the idea yet? Or am I just blabbing about nothing important?

Research is one of the biggest things that need to happen and this is while writing. Readers will complain about anything that doesn’t make sense. inside the real world or in a fantasy one, that’s why notes help as they allow you to keep track of little details and if you’ve already connected them before you’ve started the story then you are more likely going to have them connect and make sense to a person whose reading them.

It’s also a good idea when you’re heading into editing, that way you can share your world building with your editor allowing them to know what they are seeing and help you build up parts in order to create the best world you can give your readers.

This isn’t as important when dealing with contemporary because, like I said it’s where we are now, but that’s not to say someone who will be reading your story wouldn’t have gone to where you’re writing and will comment on your inaccuracy.

They can also get very offended if you are writing about a country by what you think it’s like over there and not what it actually is. Honestly, most countries, or what you see of them on telly isn’t actually real. It’s more an over-exaggeration of what’s true. Or an outdated idea of what’s true because that’s how you’ve always seen them and you aren’t happy with the reality.

And that’s before you get into the characters themselves, personally.

Generally speaking, we read a book by ourselves. We, also, as humans, tend to rewrite or rethink about things in a way that makes sense to us. We each have a unique experience that we bring to the story when reading it.  

Example? My Pop died of cancer. When he got his last scan they told him the cancer had entered his liver, so my aunty (his daughter) who had a friend who died of liver cancer told everyone that they’d know he going to die when he started going yellow. And in all cases, if he had liver cancer this is correct, only he didn’t, but she couldn’t let it go. She knew what happened with liver cancer, and in her head that was all there was to it. That’s how her father was going to die.

This is the point. I’m not sure if I’m saying it correctly, but she’ just couldn’t see that he wasn’t dying any other way and became a bit defensive about it. To her that was what she’d been through. Tand that past experience was carried over to the present situation and she just couldn’t allow anyone to tell her otherwise. (Pretty sure I just repeated everything I’d already said).

The one thing I’ve heard in reference in reviews is that people have complained that an event wasn’t real because of the fact that it wasn’t something they’d been through. These things are more so with emotional or medical details than anything else.

It comes down to what I said above, we read by ourselves. We take the words in and we turn them into what we know of our worlds for a little while and when things are very heavily about emotions or about individual persons they can get a bit defensive or a bit harsh when reviewing your book because you haven’t told it the way they know.

I am a medical weirdo, I was completely conscious and asking for food with a complete collapsed lung and a quarter full other one. Up and eating and the oxygen irritated me, made me feel sick. On the other hand, there was a lady next to me when I was ICU who ended up getting a tube down her throat and put into a medical coma. She had the same things I did. The result of swine flu so much fun.

If I wrote a book with me as the main character going through the same problems, a sort of realism fiction people would rip me apart from getting that wrong. For the fact that there’s no way I’d have been conscious. But the thing is I WAS. It’s a fact. I was even used in one of those medical conferences, and irritated the hell out of specialist.

But the normal is how you have to play these things. You need to research different people’s reactions and then make one that sits somewhere in the middle.

When I researched my prostate cancer story, I looked up the site, I read 6 stories that I ended up re-reading multiple times as I wrote the story. I also read other options other ideas and other medical problems that have similar problems. And that’s important. I don’t think my story would have been half as good, half as educational (if you look at it that way) if I hadn’t gone so far into the disease. If I hadn’t read up and followed links that I didn’t even think were connected. Because at the end of the day people in the medical field read your story and they do know these things.

When it comes to physical actions it’s a little less full on. In your life you have probably done most of what you are writing about, in one way or another. You write about a carpenter, well you’ve probably, in your life at some point, picked up a hammer and tried to hit a nail. And if it’s as simple as that in your scene, then it’s easy you mention him picking up the nail and hitting it, you don’t need to say what that feels like because, well, everyone has picked up a hammer.

But a gun? This is another one, people can assume that everyone’s picked up a gun, then you run the rest of them not understanding what you’re going on about.

This is also a little weird and ties into my first post of this section. It’s hard to write something different if others have always said it the same way. Even if you know everything about it, readers might second glance or flat out call it wrong because they’ve never read it described that way. It’s a hard balance, though when it comes to reality, I’m all for doing what you know and if you know how it goes done it physically, read up on it extensively then you have every right and I encourage you to write it the way you know it.

Hope you understood and that I didn’t mess up this part. Hope to see you next time, mostly likely editing.

If you wish to read the book I spoke of the title is Love Without Knowing It

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