by Evy Journey
Details and “facts” can give a story that convincing ring of authenticity. As a reader, wouldn’t a story sound more believable when the writer describes time, events, and place as if she was there? Or, if her characters speak the dialect and follow the social and cultural customs of where and when the story is set?
I’m comfortable doing research. In fact I have fun with it. I did research for my graduate work in psychology, as well as for jobs I held after that. You could say that after all those years, digging for facts and information is in my blood. Now, anytime I hear about something that makes me curious, I google it. No question the internet has made a lot of information available to writers. To everyone, in fact. But that boon could also be a bane.
The Internet yields a lot of good information. Also, a lot that’s crap. That’s inevitable and probably natural when we’re given freedom to be heard or to say whatever we want to say. But that also behooves us to be critical or vigilant about what we get on the internet. And to seek other sources like books or relevant journals. We can also interview people who know about the time, place, or events we include in our stories.
Many writers think facts and details are not as important as showing characters’ reactions—what one writer calls “emotive impact.” Fiction is, after all, entertainment. Readers may be more interested in what characters’ experience than in how accurately a setting or an action is described.
A writer could also get too caught up trying to sound authentic. She may give too many, even unnecessary, details and end up with what I call story constipation. “Constipation” refers to “a state in which the usual flow of something is blocked or obstructed” (Encarta Dictionary). Precisely what could happen to plotlines at the mercy of too many details.
You may not be compelled to do research if you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer. You can create your own world and your own time, within the limits of your imagination. But a fantasy writer I once interviewed claimed her stories and characters are still based on reality. Her alien or fantastic characters still feel, behave and, maybe, think like humans. They’re plagued by the same conflicts and react as we, ordinary humans, do.
I can understand that. To draw readers into our stories, we still need to write about something they can connect to. Things and issues that concern all of us; thoughts and feelings we all go through.
Here’s a good guide by author Lisa Gardner for getting the best out of research and making them work for the story.
She's lived and traveled in many places, from Asia to Europe. Often she's ended up in Paris, though—her favorite place in the world. She's an observer-wanderer. A flâneuse, as the French would say.
The mind is what fascinates her most. Armed with a Ph.D., she researched and spearheaded the development of mental health programs. And wrote like an academic. Not a good thing if you want to sound like a normal person. So, in 2012, she began to write fiction (mostly happy fiction) as an antidote.
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Evy's Newest Women's Fiction Release: Hello, Agnieszka
Born to immigrant parents weighed down by their roots, Agnieszka takes solace in learning to play the piano, taught by a sympathetic aunt who was a concert pianist in Poland before World War II. But when her aunt betrays her and her parents cast her aside for violating their traditional values, can Agnieszka’s music sustain her? Can she, at eighteen, build a life on her own?
When she finally bares her soul to her children, Agnieszka hopes they can accept that she has a past that’s as complex as theirs; that she’s just as human, just as vulnerable as they are. But do her revelations alienate her husband and can they push Elise farther away from her?
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