Saturday, November 08, 2008

Writing is Continuing Education

By Keith Fisher

In the interest of being accurate, and not wishing to have my manuscript rejected on grounds of doctrinal correctness, I did some heavy research this week. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. I discovered so many things about the subject that I’m beginning to think of myself as knowledgeable.

After a while, I began to reflect on the things I know, and how I acquired that knowledge. I, like all of you, learned the basics at my mother’s knee. Crawling around the floor of the house helped too. I went to grammar school and learned my readin, writin, and arithmetic just like everyone else. There were other lessons I learned there too. Lessons like, how to play sports and how cruel kids can be to each other.

All through our lives we force knowledge into the onboard, computer hard drive we call our brain. Some of the learning, we considered useless information, but we crammed it in, and regurgitated it on a test paper. Some of that knowledge remains, some of it leaked out years ago, and some of it resides in our head, just out of reach. "Why can’t I remember that?" we ask.

The scriptures, and the prophets, have admonished us to be constantly learning. Most of us, however, can’t afford the time and money it takes to attend college or adult education classes. We end up collecting facts from the media, or office gossip. Many of us read books. Whether we read fiction or non-fiction, we learn things.

What a great advantage we have as writers. Even if the stories we write are pure fantasy, there is always some degree of research involved. I remember writing a scene once, where a man accosted a woman while she was holding a baby. I became concerned that the baby would be crushed. Also, I wondered if it were possible for her to extricate herself from him in the way that I had written. Using my wife and a teddy bear, I conducted some experiments to find out. I had to rewrite the scene, but my research had shown me an answer.

With all the research we do as writers, isn’t it great that we can continue to learn? Facts go into our hard drive that we later call up and use as an obscure fact somewhere in our story. If, in our writing frenzy, we have a character quoting from the bible but later, find out the quote was really from Shakespeare, we can be glad for research. If your character gets arrested, isn’t it nice to know that at some point before the cops take him away, they must read him his Miranda Rights?

After all the research I did this week I have developed a new appreciation for study and for the hard drive in my head. I’ve filed and categorized facts up there for later use. I just hope I can retrieve it all, when in the coming years, I get old and scary.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week


G. Parker said...

That's one of the reasons I picked fiction to don't have to do as much research. Unfortunately, I've found you still need to have the facts straight...sigh. Good blog!

Tristi Pinkston said...

Yep, there's always research involved no matter what you write. To different extents, certainly, but it's still there!

And what's really fun is that the more you research, the better you get at playing Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy.

ali said...

You are so right Keith! I love your blog today. My current wip is fiction, but has doctrinal stuff in it. I've learned a lot and have just had my mind blown by the things I've read and learned just while researching a work of fiction. Very cool.