Once again, today’s post is compliments of my writing partner Brad Seggie. Brad did all the research for The Simulacrum, much of it amazingly detailed and intense. He developed an exciting plot from his research, and the resulting book was a blast to write.
Details help to bring a reader into a story. A little bit of local color can go a long way toward bringing your readers into the story. The flip side is that some of the readers know a thing or two about the subjects and places that you are describing. If your details are inaccurate, it will cause readers to lose faith in your writing and give up on your novel. In order to ensure accuracy, you will need to research.
The first place to go is the internet. An internet browser and a search engine is the quickest way to find information that you need. When it comes to describing the locations in your novel, you’ll probably find that there are plenty of photos and videos of the place you want to write about. When I was researching a scene involving the National Academy of Sciences building, I was able to find lots of pictures that helped me to describe the pagan imagery that adorns the building. And the same applies to technical, medical and scientific issues. When I was researching arguments concerning creation and evolution, I was able to read a large number of creationist sites and a large number of Darwinist sites. All in all, I found the Darwinist sites to be the most helpful. By reading both sides, I was able to identify the strongest arguments to present to the reader.
Another way to research is to hit the books. Although we like to believe that everything is available on the web, there is still some information available in book form that isn’t available on web pages. In researching The Simulacrum, I purchased a number of books about the Royal Society and the issue of creation and evolution. It’s probably a lot cheaper, though, to visit your library.
You can also travel to the locations described in your novel. As it so happened, I had visited Washington, DC in the recent past, so I had some idea of the layout of the city and the location of the bedroom communities. Although I have lived in Texas, I have never visited Paluxy, the site of the so-called “man tracks” and the location of the novel’s key fossil find. Some of the action takes place in the Nashville area and I had the opportunity to visit Nashville for the first time this month – just a month before the novel is set for release. Although I didn’t see anything that would require us to change what we wrote, I was happy to see another location of some of the key scenes in the novel.
Finally, you can talk with people who know about your subject. In The Simulacrum, there is a scene involving a plane flight. I was lucky to have a friend who is a commercial pilot and who has substantial experience flying smaller planes as well. We sat down and discussed the appropriate terminology. I asked him how a pilot would react to certain difficulties happening while he’s flying the plane, and how the plane itself would react. I shared the details with my co-author and it gave us a certain degree of confidence in writing the scene.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “write what you know.” I believe you should write what you want to write, but “know what you write.” If you do your research, you will earn your readers’ trust and you have the opportunity to draw them into the story.
It’s coming August 15th!
Totally agree about the details. In writing historical fiction, I almost always find it’s the little, mundane details that end up bringing the setting to life.