Saturday 31 October 2009

Researching that novel

Tell Me a Story - tips

Does the idea of research throw you into a fluster?

Okay, so you’ve dreamed up a breathtaking idea for a mystery. You've decided you’ll have a young English girl swept off her feet by a French aristocrat whom she bumps into accidentally and who obviously has something to hide. You can’t be bothered with all that crap about planning and plotting, you know exactly where to begin. You’ll get your main characters in conversation right away when they meet on a train from London to Glasgow.

You're in heaven

You rush right in, hot ideas spilling into the word processor. You're filled with utmost assurance. The dialogue will be a cauldron of interesting little snippets that are sure to captivate the readers. You’ll bring in your hero’s French background, how he came to be on the London train, her experience in learning some new job that you’re bound to think of in a few minutes, and every bit of it will be full of interesting detail.

Oh, oh!

At this point, you come to a stop, yet you haven’t typed more than a couple of pages. You become conscious that you don’t know these characters. Their lives are a blank; you know absolutely nothing about them or their lifestyles. Is there even a train from London to Glasgow? If so what times does it run? Someone will pick up on it if you get it wrong.

As empty as an empty can

The whole of your mystery will be just as empty if you don’t know pertinent facts. You must find out all about your characters and their backgrounds before you begin. You must know about their families and friends, you must know their likes and dislikes. Research means no more than that, yet the thought of it can throw beginners into as big a panic as the idea of writing a synopsis.

Even if you’re familiar with a place, a job, a building, you still need to do a little research. Unless you have a super-human memory, you’ll find your knowledge of even quite familiar things will play tricks with you.

Research can be as unpretentious or as convoluted as you care to make it. Just make sure you get out there and do it.

Who needs writers agents?
Book writing tips - A Perceptive Notebook

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