Saturday, August 13, 2011

Research

By Keith N Fisher

I didn’t get any comments on last week’s blog. Therefore, I get to keep the chocolate bar.

Did you ever notice how much writing fiction teaches you? I’m not talking about the craft of writing, but facts and information about many different things. For example, I wrote a story about a girl who gets shot in New York’s, Washington Square. I spent hours on the Internet and reading books, just to get a feel for the setting.

Shortly after I wrote my story, I watched the movie, August Rush. As you probably know, much of that movie was set in Washington Square. With out knowing that, I watched with a sense of familiarity. When they showed the arch, I knew I had been there before. Writing about it is as good as being there.

I suppose my character could’ve gotten shot in Temple Square in Salt Lake, but she demanded the New York setting.

In another story, I researched a Subdural Hematoma because my character had bone shards in her brain after getting beat up and almost killed. The doctors missed it in the initial x-rays, and it eventually put her in convulsions.

In another story, a character was traveling with a wagon train full of freight. He is part of an altercation set in City of Rocks, Idaho. To write the scene, I needed a sense of place. Also, since the story is set in nineteenth century, I needed a historical background. I can’t count the times I have gone to Google Earth to make sure about a location.

Recently, a character couldn’t find anything to wear to dinner. She wanted to make a special impression so she went shopping. Of course she dragged me along with her. I went to the catalogues and sale circulars to find the perfect outfit, and laughed that writing had taught me how to shop for women’s clothes.

Once, I sat in a class taught by Robison Wells. Among other books, he wrote The Counterfeit and took us on a journey through the catacombs of Paris. As part of the class, he showed us his research. Between Google maps and many Internet sites, he learned enough to write the book.

As writers, we are all students of one thing or another. The threat of our readers finding a flaw looms over our heads and forces us to be accurate. Yes it is fiction, but if you write about a certain place, like Washington Square, readers will stop reading if you get something wrong.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending a picnic with some fellow writers from AI. Afterward, Lt. Gary Giles from the Orem City, Utah police department, taught us about weapons. He gave us hands on training in shooting, and talked about some of the things every writer should know. For example, Gary pointed out that if your character is firing an automatic pistol, the scene will be littered with shell casings. As opposed to a revolver, which doesn’t eject the shells.

Having grown up around guns, I enjoyed the training from a police officer’s point of view, but many of my peers had never been around a weapons fire. They were able to feel and shoot many different guns and learned a lot. Thanks Gary, for taking the time, and Thanks Nichole, for setting it up.

As a writer, I owe it to my readers to be accurate in my descriptions. Some things just can’t be described without a working knowledge of the place or the experience. Take the time task to a professional. Use the Internet, and learn all you can.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

3 comments:

Keith Fisher said...

Sorry Fender. I don't appreciate people using my blog to advertise a non-writing related thing.

Stephanie Black said...

You gotta wonder what would happen if any of us writers ever got accused of a crime and the police checked our internet histories. "You were researching WHAT? Murder? Guns? Decomposing bodies?" "I was just writing a book, I swear!"

Cheri Chesley said...

I didn't comment last week on purpose so someone else could get the chocolate. Man, their loss...
Great post, as always, Keith.