Saturday, August 11, 2012

Uh, what year is this?

Perhaps reading recent posts from fellow Vanilla Heart Authors Malcolm Campbell  and Joice Overton  about the research they put into their stories for authenticity influenced my subconscious... boy did I ever wake from a confusing dream this morning!

Basically the dream involved two brothers and their dad. There was mention of mom but she never appeared in the dream. The setting, clothing wise and scenery seemed to be in the middle ages (like the "Robin Hood" era), but here comes the confusion.

The younger boy was headed off to some fair or such, he was rolling a zippered suitcase. The boys wanted their dad to come with them, but dad was having trouble getting a message to his wife because she apparently “never got off of her cell phone”. At the fair the boys ordered lunch and sat in a booth in a 50’s style diner complete with car hops on skates. Confused? Definitely.

Please don’t analyze my dream, lol – I swear, it was just because I was thinking about research and period authenticity.

How many times have you succumbed to a movie or book plot just to be jolted awake by a glaring addition of something so very out of place like a wrong year car driving over a bridge that collapsed years before the manufactured year? Or maybe it’s a pineapple tree growing (naturally) on the streets of New York City? The last time I was bumped out of the fantasy, it had to do with a police uniform and the color of a shirt. Not everyone will realize or catch mistakes, but why ruin it for anyone? Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it shouldn’t seem real.

I write mostly contemporary fiction so, hopefully, I don’t have too much of a problem with the proper accessories of the time. But research is still crucial. Take the weather for instance, in Hostage Heart I used actual hurricane devastation to build my character’s story. Sometimes the tourist industry is important, in His Lucky Charm and Within the Law  I used well known landmarks to paint the picture. And in Hyphema  I used ethnicity and cultural insensitivity to build my plot.

Some research may come along easily especially if we write about areas, customs and time periods we are most familiar with. If I wrote about my community, my experiences, my lifestyle and my life in every book, I doubt readers would be fascinated (at least not beyond one story). I have to learn as much as possible about other occupations, religions, areas, cultures and more in order to make my stories real and believable.

How do writers do their research? Most of us delve deeply into the learning process using encyclopedias, the internet (and we know that EVERYTHING we find there is true, lol), read books, and even find tour guides for foreign locations.

When I am researching culture, religion or occupations, I stop random people in my daily activities and ask questions – I’m sure one of these days I’ll probably be arrested for harassment or such. I sometimes even go to experts for answers although I guess I wasn’t thinking too clearly the time I asked a real medical examiner if a particular poison could be detected in an autopsy…

We have muses, we have voices in our heads, and we live in fantasy worlds - but we do try to stay grounded in reality.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

167 posts

I just entered my 167th post on my Amazon Kindle blog Living, Breathing, Writing; that represents 3.21 years of weekly writing lessons - nearly 39 months - 167 weeks
When I first started this Kindle blog, I wondered, could I actually "teach" folks how to write and make it in the writing world? I had after all been conducting in-person writing workshops for a while.

What I found I've done is share the lessons I've learned through the years (journalist since 1981, novelist since 2001) - my blog touches on topics like How to hook your reader, Getting press coverage for you and your book, Fitting writing into your life, Writing about heroes and villains, Getting emotional in your writing, Setting the scene, and more.

...and if you don't own a Kindle, well my fantastic publisher had the foresight to make Living, Breathing, Writing: A Lesson A Day Volume 1  and Living, Breathing, Writing: A Lesson A Day, Volume 2 available for download in multiple e-book formats from Smashwords - each book contains a month's worth of writing lessons based on my Amazon Kindle blog complete with writing exercises and prompts for practice.
Cover for 'Living, Breathing, Writing: A Lesson A Day'
When I started out in the writing world, I appreciated the words
of wisdom shared by my fellow writers who had more
experience and I hope to be helpful to other writers