Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Zen and the Art of Research #IWSG

This month's IWSG question is about research: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story? I've done so much research for writing that it's hard to name the weirdest or coolest.

I've researched where pippies grow, the atmosphere on Venus, the make up of the sun, how to  artificially make rain, the guns used by detectives in the early twentieth century, what goes into creating artificial intelligence, natural remedies to clear acne, and various backgrounds of martial arts, among other things. Then there is the endless searches for names for my characters, ensuring they fit not only the character's personality, but also the year they were born.

Now for the zen part of this post: A poorly researched story can disturb a reader's calm. I've read stories where it was painfully obvious the author's only research came from watching movies. Anachronisms, falsehoods and inaccuracies can destroy an otherwise enjoyable story.

So my advice is this: Never bank on your readers to care little about the details, to be ignorant of the facts, or to lack an understanding of how physics works. The more accurate your story world is, the more immersed your readers will become--even if it's a fantasy. Don't mimic something you might've heard at a barbecue, or seen at the movies, or glanced across on the internet. Check your facts. Besides, your research might lead your story to a completely different, yet serendipitous, direction.

What do you love or dislike about research? What are some of the things you've had to research?
--
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66 comments:

  1. Congratulations to all twelve authors in our anthology! They did an awesome job.
    You mean movies don't present facts? Really? Next you'll tell me the media lies as well...

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  2. Most of my character's names came from the Bible and weren't too hard to nail down, but I really had to scour to find a woman's name that began with an M. (Hint - there are only 2.)

    Congrats to the authors and their big release week.

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    1. Ha, it's easy when it's a biblical name you're looking for, except, as you say, when it's something more specific.

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  3. So true that we don't want to include fake facts in our stories. You've certainly researched a variety of subjects for your books.

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  4. So true! I think most readers notice the small details. If they're reading your book then they have a love for something within it: topic, theme, setting, etc... So they probably are familiar with said subject(s). And YAY! for the anthology. I really like the cover.

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  5. What? Movies are lying to me? I can't get shot and be up and walking a day later? Noooooo!

    Okay, I'm done.

    Congrats to all the authors!

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    1. hahahaha so funny. When it's no longer convenient for the plot, the injury disappears. It's a miracle!

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  6. I hate when I get yanked out of a story because of incorrect facts or poor writing. Sometimes I can get can back into it, but other times, I give up and move on.

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    1. Yep, I usually give up and move on. There are too many other books I want to read.

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  7. I had to look up pippies--didn't know they were Australian clams, so I guess I've done my researcher for today. I try to ensure that all the facts in my novels are accurate. It doesn't take much to upset a reader and once you do, they're lost to you forever.

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    1. Excellent research! They taste good too, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.

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  8. Oh, you are SO right about sharp eyed readers. I made that mistake early on by taking a few spot of accuracy for granted (hey, it was before the Internet when you actually had to go to the Library!) and I got called out big time. Never again. Those nitpicky details are always the best!

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    1. Going to a library to research would be so time consuming. I love that we have the internet now, but even what we find there needs verifying.

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  9. True!!! Readers will get turned off by unreal and made-up facts. I was going to look up pippies but thanks to Susanne I see they are Australian clams! You've really done extensive research, so cool.

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    1. Re Pippies: The Plebidonax deltoides, to be exact. Go the research!

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  10. Yay for your awesome book, and the new anthology!

    I agree with you about the Zen aspect. It's easy to accidentally miss something, but hopefully our critique partners and beta readers point out the blunder early on. The closer to reality a story's rules are, the more believable it will be to the reader.

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    1. And the more authenticity you hold as a writer.

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  11. The anthology sounds awesome. I research everything. Or so it seems. I sometimes think I spend more time doing that than actually writing and revising put together.

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    1. Oh, it's easy to become lost in research.

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  12. Some great tips about research there, Lynda. Thank you for sharing. I hope life is being kind.

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  13. It's great to read what everyone is researching. I think that's why we do such a detailed search, to get it right! I hate when people don't get things right in their writing:-)

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    1. It's such a huge distraction when they don't get it right.

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  14. You've researched some interesting topics. The thing I don't like about researching on the internet is trying to separate between fact and fiction. While there is so much helpful information on the internet there is also a great deal of misinformation so sources need to be checked carefully and common sense often needs to be put into play.

    Something I don't like when I'm reading and a place that I know well is involved, is when the writer apparently has never actually been to the place they're writing about and they get things way wrong. I'm just shaking my head as I read thinking "NO,no, no" to myself.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. You are so right. That misinformation can lead many people astray!

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  15. I agree. Research should never have a glaring light on it; it should remain in the background enhancing the story. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  16. Heroes I believe will be shown to be much more complicated than we think, based on these stories. Good overview.

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    1. Heroes are such interesting creatures :)

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  17. I like your sentence, Never bank on your readers to care little about the details, to be ignorant of the facts, or to lack an understanding of how physics works. I always say readers are dumb. We're smarter than people think.
    Great May posting.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. Readers are super smart and super wonderful. Let's never underestimate them.

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  18. As a reader, I've always enjoyed it when the writer researches a topic thoroughly. Adding little details like that can really make a story seem real to me.

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    1. It's the detail that makes the story rich with authenticity.

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  19. Lynda, you are so right. Inaccuracies throw the reader right out of your fictive world, whether it is contemporary or fantasy. The world and all the details must make sense for the story to work. Thanks so much for sharing this insight with your followers. All best to you.

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    1. Once, I had to throw out an entire story I'd written after I did some research. I realised I should have researched earlier because I learned the story was outrageously impossible if I stuck to the facts.

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  20. I agree with you, Lynda. I write what I know and I know one place very well, NY in the 80's...how lucky am I? :)

    FYI, I made the big move away from Blogger and can be found at:

    Elsie Amata


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  21. Advice well taken! Pay attention to accuracy and details.

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  22. I think it's awesome when readers pick up a falsity. Shows they were paying attention. I love the research part of writing. Trouble is not to let too much onto the page or it becomes showoffy.

    Don't eat too many pippies now...

    Denise:-)

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    1. Research should be like an iceberg. You only see the tip of it.

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  23. Ooh How to Arificially Create Rain sounds interesting and semi-related to something I'm writing. :)
    Accuracy definitely matters. My kids were disappointed by some novels by a bestselling author because they discovered he didn't research some of his details about Portland or the Grand Canyon all that well. (not going to mention author name)
    Happy May!

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    1. Inaccuracy in stories can be hugely disappointing.

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  24. I so agree with you, Lynda! I think accuracy and a grounding in facts are truly important in writing. That's something I really work on as a writer. Happy writing this month!

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    1. And research is fun, so it shouldn't be so hard to get the facts right.

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  25. Thanks for "pippies"! I love it when I learn something new. I completely agree about getting the little things right - nothing yanks me out of a story faster than reading something completely out of sinc with reality (and I don't mean fantasy). This is why I cannot watch most police, fire, legal, or medical shows. Utter trash.

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    1. And I can't watch any shows about tech around my husband because he tells me they are all wrong, lol.

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  26. I can handle books that use too much research as opposed to books that obviously have not been researched. Research is like having continuing education.

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    1. Yes! Education that's actually interesting ;)

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  27. Some cool things you have researched. Great post.
    ' Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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  28. we have a female writer here in my country (a horrid bitch by the way) who uses her husband to do the research and then when he comes back with the material she starts writing.

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    1. he just left her last week with a gay lover :) it's the talk of our tabloids LOL

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    2. I can almost hear you chuckling at that one from here!

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  29. Absolutely right that there needs to be some sort of basis in reality, no matter how far out the story may be. You've certainly researched some interesting areas!

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    1. That research brings authenticity to our stories.

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  30. I've had books ruined because the freeway systems were wrong. They were writing about a place I lived and they just didn't know what they were talking about. I just felt that if they got that wrong, what else hadn't they researched properly. I just didn't feel as if I could trust the author.

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    1. Yep, I've had a similar experience. It's a shame. While researching a place can take some time, it's well worth it.

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  31. I adore research. I have so much weird trivia in my head. However, so much of it isn't for polite conversation. ;)

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  32. How to artificially make rain? I like the sound of that. Sounds interesting.
    What were your findings, Lyn?

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    1. My findings were that my story was so wrong and silly and I should've researched that one before I started writing it, lol.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.