Thursday 26 December 2013

Joshua Silverman – Writing Fiction is Research @jg_silverman

One of the most overlooked areas of writing fiction is research. Most writers I’ve come across don’t think of themselves as “researchers”. They just want to tell the best story they can. And that’s admirable, but I believe that to make a story convincing it has to be realistic. To be realistic, it has to be researched. Here are some things that I’ve found in other people’s books which a simple internet search could have avoided.

  1. A man hears a shot from a gun then sees the victim fall. The author should have known most modern day ammunition travels twice the speed of sound so the action would have happened in reverse. The man would have fallen and then the witness would have heard the gunshot.
  2. If you’re writing about the military or soldiers, do not confuse military ranks. The US Army has no rank called “Admiral” and the Navy does not have “Generals.” It’s a five minute Google search to figure this one out.
  3. If you’re writing any type of historical fiction, you better do some serious research. Don’t say George Washington pulled out his iPhone to Google Map the road to Trenton if cell phones didn’t exist in the 1700’s!
  4. If you’re doing any type of setting or environment work. Don’t tell me about the earthquakes in Florida because Florida doesn’t have earthquakes, they have hurricanes. You should know the weather patterns of your environment, the produce, the politics, the immigration, you should know everything.
  5. Don’t write a book about robots and androids without researching cybernetics! Readers are smart, we’ll know.
  6. If you’re writing suspense/murder mystery then you should know a lot about police procedures and the legal system. Don’t tell me the CSI guys do the interviews like on one show I know but they don’t in real life.
  7. Don’t tell me your horse galloped 200 miles in a day. Your horse would be dead.
  8. If you’re writing a sci-fi novel about time travel, you better damn well research quantum physics and current time travel theories because it can get very confusing.

These are just some examples. But I want to stress balance. A writer can spend quite literally years in research if they want. At that time, it might be an exercise in procrastination rather than writing.

I believe in a one to one ratio. For every hour or writing, you probably needed to do an hour of research. Since the Emerald Tablet is based in Greek and Egyptian mythology and culture, I read over 20 non-fiction history books and spent countless hours trying to capture the feel of these ancient societies. Even so, it was easy for me to say “I need to do more research”. Even today, as I’m writing book 3, I’m still researching. Don’t go overboard but make it realistic and believable for your readers. They’ll appreciate it and get lost in the story.


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Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy

Rating – PG-13+

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