Monday, June 1, 2015
Research the crap out of it....
Google is without doubt, a writers friend. Many moons ago authors would set off on journeys to discover the village, town or country that would feature in their next best seller... now we have Google: not quite as romantic, or expensive, Google and Google Earth offer a great insight into these places without us actually having to leave the comfort of our living room. If it's uniforms or cultures you are researching - Google it. Obviously it's not quite the same as standing in the middle of a 16th Century stately home because there is no ambiance or atmosphere to absorb but it is pretty damn good for dealing with the facts.
Way back in an earlier post I referred to Granddads story in 'Elementals', a story from his childhood, his days in London during the second World War. It all had to tie in with the discovery of an underground vault. So, through research (Uncle Google) I managed to discover the number of German bombs that fell within a square mile of the location, and on what day. From the stories perspective, I doubt that 99% of readers would even bother to check the plausibility of the bombs falling, 'hey, it was London, in 1940, there was a war on, of course bombs could have fallen in or around that exact area... who cares?' - Well, the answer is that I do! I care that the one percent of people that will check on the day and date, will learn that over 400 bombs fell on the day, in that area; the collapsing shop front that crashes onto the road below, opening up the secreted and forgotten vault is plausible! The devil is in the detail.
It was the same with 'Russian Redemption', a funeral parade that passed along the walls of The Kremlin - thank God for Google! Various pictures, schematics and descriptive accounts of visitors and families from that era supplied all the information needed; enough to give a believable version of such a funeral procession (without boring the reader with micro facts that they just won't appreciate).
It is more than just being right, it's about completing the readers experience at a different level. Some readers seem quite happy to read anything as long as there aren't too many spelling or grammar mistakes, and the story has something of interest about it; these readers tend not to invest emotionally unless there is something specific in the story that resonates with them, a place, a song, a particular slang word. And it is true that some are happy with that, but I want as many people as possible to invest in my stories, I want the detail to win over the most hardened of picky readers.
Mind Map is a big thing for me as well. It helps keep my 'timeline' true. As I have said before, I tend to write in a manner that requires thought, I'll jump around a bit from time zones and places, always heading towards the finale, so Mind Map has proven to be an essential tool - it also allows me to make notes on character development and events.
I have to be honest and say that 'Elementals' has involved an incredible amount of research, not just location but also mythical as it involves historical 'forces'; Probably, for every two hours of research, a single sentence is constructed - but it's a bloody important sentence!
Talking of 'Elementals' - it's a VA/early teen story. The other day I was having a drink after work (or maybe during actual work hours, but definitely working - ish) with a client, you know thing. And we got around to discussing the fact that I wrote books, enjoying the fact that I could honestly say that I was a published Author. Anyway, it turns out that the son of this chap is an avid reader, and when I say 'avid', I mean a constant need to read. This is 2015, a 12 year-old addicted to reading - there is hope for the generation yet. I've taken a brave step and sent the 'Elementals' manuscript to a 12 year old to read and critique. Seeing as this is inside the age brackets of the target audience I feel this is a really good move, and am looking forward to the honesty of the youngster to correct any story or plot glitches that a mere adult would over look. Does that count as research, hmmmm, possibly.
Anyway - back to the laptop for research purposes, a whole new story brews.