Five Great Quotations about Story Characters
Four writing prompts: Hope

Always research details of your fiction story

Unless you Magnifying glass are an expert, research is essential to make your story plausible. After all, others who read the genre you write in likely will be familiar with the details of your book’s subject – police procedure for crime novels, theories of faster than light travel for science fiction, guns used in the Old West for westerns. Even if not writing a genre novel, getting details wrong about a historical period or a place that currently exists will be obvious to many readers – history buffs or someone who lives in that city/state, example.

Either way, factual errors almost certainly will garner negative reviews of your book, primarily because your book simply isn’t believable. Getting the little facts wrong – such as saying the Julius Caesar lived at the time of Christ in a novel set during the fall of the Roman Republic – breaks the fictive dream for readers who know better.

To do research, you’ll need to read a lot of nonfiction books about the topic and even have some on hand for quick reference. Libraries offer the opportunity to pick up a number of free books on the topic, and from there you may want to purchase the better ones that you’ve read for latter reference. While the Internet also can be used, you must first ensure the information is accurate; much of what appears online is neither written by professional writers who understand research nor is it vetted by editors familiar with the topic. In addition, the Internet suffers from a limitation of available information. Though search engines may yield tens of thousands of websites about your topic, most of the information presented is redundant and either too basic or too technical to be of much use to a novelist.

When researching, start by creating a project “bible” in a three-ring binder. As you write your story and come across a technical fact, you’ll want to research it. Consider the following passage:

“At night, Venus is so bright, it cast shadows on the Earth,” Admiral Damali said, as he pointed at the white wall. Faint silhouettes of the pair ran across the ground and up waist-high adobe.

Your BS radar should have started beeping during the first sentence. The writer of this passage needs to check if Venus really can cast shadows on Earth. You can bet that one of your readers knows. As a side note, Venus is indeed bright enough to do that.

In addition, you’ll want to research to give yourself ideas for your story. Learning how a forensics investigation works, for example, should allow you to identify details that a routine examination wouldn’t look for, giving you ideas for how someone might commit a murder that would prove challenging for the detective to solve the case.

Indeed, your goal in researching is not only to get the details right to become so immersed in a topic that you can accurately imagine yourself in a specific job or environment. This means you will read far more pages and take far more notes than necessary – and that’s OK; it’s an indication you’re being thorough. Indeed, the writer always should know about the factual elements in his story than actually appear in it.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.


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