My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Three Benefits of Researching Fiction by Claire Youmans

I write Fantasy-Adventure books for tweens and up. I make up stories in my head, write them down and make books out of them. So why do I spend time and money scouting out locations in a foreign country, visiting museums and monuments, sussing out folk art, folklore, history, traditional customs and designs and continuing my never-ending study of language? Why am I still hauling around that 900+page period literature anthology that is so blasted hard to read since it’s not in my Kindle? Very little of the research I do will make it, of itself, into the actual books.  What does all this research accomplish? I can think of three huge benefits for my books and my readers.

1. Location, location, location. I’m working in a fixed historic era in a specific place. Even if I totally made up an alternate universe, that universe would be to at least some extent based on my experiences. How can I describe the sensory features of a place — how it looks, smells, sounds, feels, tastes — unless I have experienced those features for myself? Even features of an alternate universe can be at least partially duplicated on this planet at this time. Readers need to be in the moment to connect with the story. If there is no sensory data available to them, they can’t fully realize the scene. To write credible sensory data, I have to have sensory data. Research lets you and your readers know where and when you are.

2.  History and plausibility. OK, so it’s Fantasy-Adventure. But it takes place somewhere and somewhen. I need to know about those times and that place if I am going to be able to make things up believably — even if my entire universe is made up. Things have contexts. Research gives it.

3.  Serious Characters. Oh, please, you say, rolling your eyes. Your characters include bird-children, talking horses, dragons, tanuki, other folkloric monsters and a few befuddled humans. Serious characters? Yes. Sentient beings (inclusivity here) are also products of their times, places and cultures. These books take place in a time when there were enormous clashes between very different cultures. Characters will reflect their cultures. Even if they arrive at the same conclusions, they may well do so for diametrically opposite reasons. Real characters, ones readers can relate to, have distinct cultures and environments, as well as varying physical and mental abilities. Real characters need to change more than their clothes to be credible. Real characters are the ones readers can connect with.

Research enriches your work and helps your readers sink right into your little world and get to know its specific, individual denizens.  Some works take more, some take less, but all, in my experience, take some.  Research!

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here:

Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

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