Thursday, July 17, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101: About Research

Baby Evil Writers 101: Research
Julie Butcher

I’m sure that all of you baby evil geniuses have heard the importance of doing your research. You’ve heard horror stories about how published authors have been lambasted in public because of some little detail they had gotten wrong in their story. They get emails and people leave reviews trying to publically embarrass and humiliate the writer.

I have met writers who have gotten so deep into research that they have still been writing the same book twenty years later. Research is a deep pit that turns into an escape from what you really need to do—write. You can trick yourself into feeling productive by finding out what herb they used on lamb in Scotland in 1354. In reality, this tidbit isn’t important to the story. What the characters are doing and talking about during the meal is important.

Just write the story. Mark in red the things that you are not sure of and MOVE ALONG. You can google anytime. When in doubt, absolutely do not spend hours and hours and days trying to verify a fact. That is the time for a vague description.

Instead of saying:
He held a Sig Sauer P227 Carry Nitron. Its matte black handle fit perfectly in his hand. The 14 Round extended magazine had enough ammunition to take me down before I’d run a block. That was too much death for a seven inch weapon.

He had a gun—matte black and lethal. Adrenaline made the skin on my face feel tight, and my legs twitched with the need to run. I wasn’t ready to die.

Because no matter how much research you do, someone out there actually has a Sig Sauer P227. If you describe it perfectly, they’ll catch you on having the shell casing flying out the wrong way. Granted, that took me maybe ten minutes of research but the thing is it does not matter. There is a gun. Guns kill people. Your character thought he/she was going to die. It really is not important what kind of gun he had. The emotions generated by the sight of any gun will send adrenaline to limbs and cause a heart to beat faster.

Don’t get stuck in the details. Get deeper into the emotions. Every ten or twenty or thirty minutes of research are words that are never put onto a page.

Also it is a lame excuse to not write.

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