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 How do you do research for your novels?

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Malcolm
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PostSubject: How do you do research for your novels?   Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:22 pm

Today's musings about research for the my next book: http://jockstewart.typepad.com/writers_notebook/2010/02/writing-back-into-research-mode.html

We hear that we should write what we know, and I think that's just what we know. Most of a novel comes out of our own experience with love, loss, daily life, goals, people, and cats (of course).

What we may not know are some facts. So how do we get them and when we see them, how do we know they're enough?

Do you find experts, go to the library, search on Google, take a trip, talk to a friend or make it up and hope nobody will notice?

--Malcolm
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alj
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:25 pm

For Ailcy's Legacy, I not only researched my family history, but the history of the areas where my ancestors lived: Southern Virginia, Central Tennessee, Western Missouri, and East Texas.

The setting for most of And Adam was a Gardener was Northwest Houston, where I lived. One of the weird things was that two places I made up actually came into being afterward. I made up a place called "Briny's Irish Pub, putting it at a certain intersection on Louetta Road, and before I finished writing the book, a Molly Malone's Irish Pub opened in the exact location. I also had several of the characters working at a computer firm in NW Houston called Convac, and again, before I was done, but well after I started, Compac opened its headquarters a few miles from where I had envisioned Convac to be. For the parts of that work taking place on the planet Volara, I used my imagination, mostly, but did consult with my son the astro-physicist. He let me know when I was going too far out into spaciness.

The Redstone stories were pure fantasy, but I did do research on the Cheyenne tribes, Colorado and Wyoming history and geography, and the trail west. It helps having a minor in history, too.

I also did research into clothing styles and habits - literally habits; my great-great grandmother was an excellent horsewoman who rode side-saddle into her eighties. I saw her saddle once, hanging in the barn at my great-aunt's ranch. I had to learn a lot about saddles, horses, and even the Conestoga wagons they used to travel from Virginia to Tennessee, and that they likely took both the Old Wagon Road and the Wilderness Road to get there.

My problem is that I get so bogged down in getting the history right that it gets hard to let the story tell itself.

Ann
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ericleb010



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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:27 pm

My science fiction work only required a few Google Maps clicks in order for my locations to make some sense, but for its follow up, I felt the need to read up on historic movements and coups so as to familiarize myself with war concepts. I cannot say I did so for more than a few hours though.

For my book in progress, I normally do some extensive online research on events and facts, but I tend to get sidetracked quite easily. I've read a fair share of books which helped very much as well. This took me, as a whole, around two months.

Unlike what many people say, I highly recommend Wikipedia. Yes, it is a modifiable online encyclopedia; however, the users are required to show their references, which can be found at the bottom of every page. If you don't trust the content, you can easily check its source. Very content with it.

Quote :
My problem is that I get so bogged down in getting the history right that it gets hard to let the story tell itself.

Yes, I have the same issue. At one time, I got to the point of literally explaining an entire historic event, thinking it was the only way for it to make sense. Bad habit Cool
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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:08 pm

Non-fiction requires factual information. Many think that Fiction can get by with lots of guess work. The reader is not stupid. What is written must be credible.
My first novel, "To Beirut and Back" is non-fiction and factual.
My second novel, They Plotted Revenge Against America," although fiction, contains factual information. For life in Iraq just prior to the invasion, I corresponded with an Iraqi who lived there and fled after the invasion and got his input. Although the virus being used as a terrorist weapon was fictitious, I got detailed input from a bio-chemist about reproduction and handling of virus.

Concerning the horse question for your next book, I left my comments on your above mentioned website.
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NYT BEST
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:23 am

I make it up as I go along.
Why bother with facts?

No one cares about facts.

Facts are boring.
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ericleb010



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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:27 am

NYT BEST SELLING AUTHOR wrote:
I make it up as I go along.
Why bother with facts?

No one cares about facts.

Facts are boring.

I have serious doubts in terms of your credibility as a best-selling author. Facts are excruciatingly important when it comes to any story situated in the present epoch. At least, in my opinion; they make the story a little more enjoyable for the reader, who does not need to remember any new events.

I make things up when I go along with my fiction as well, but I still base my story on fact.

Why won't you reveal your name or your books?
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:47 am

Wow! NYT BSA, your credibility is being questioned by a nameless someone without a signature. Dang!

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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:52 am

Shelagh wrote:
Wow! NYT BSA, your credibility is being questioned by a nameless someone without a signature. Dang!

Well, my name is in my username. And I don't have a signature because I have nothing to place there.

But yes, I am questioning her credibility, and apparently I'm not the first.
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:05 am

Eric,

Do you think there is a little Deception going on here?

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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 11:07 am

Shelagh wrote:
Eric,

Do you think there is a little Deception going on here?

Nice pun Razz
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Carol Troestler
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:57 pm

Okay, you are going to discover why I'm not a best selling author.

I absolutely love facts and research.

Just the other day I made an amazing discovery. In my book about my husband's Marine squadron's part in the Cuba missile crisis, just before they wemt to save our country from destruction from the Russian missiles, they did landings and take offs on the carrier named the Intrepid. This is in my book and a very big deal to jet pilots. To write about this I did a great deal of research on this Navy ship. There were four ships with this name, the first in the 1800s and obviously not an aircraft carrier but a smaller ship.

This smaller ship was in Tripoli where a larger Navy ship had been taken over by pirates. The Marines on the Intrepid saved the other Navy ship. And. anyone who has every known a Marine well, knows the Marine Hymn speaks of "the shores of Tripoli."

All of a sudden, I realized what I was reading. It was the Intrepid that had saved the other Navy ship from the pirates, and was responsible for "from the shores of Tripoli" being in the Marine Corps hymn.

Also, the fourth Intrepid, the one these men flew off of, is in the Hudson River and was ready to send rescuers to those on the commercial aircraft that landed there in 2009

Facts do count. They are connected. They connect important things in the world. They are a big deal and I love them.

Carol study
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Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:01 pm

Yes, Ann, the history facts can take a lot of time, though I like traveling through a time period with both yes open.

You appear to have been somewhat prescient though in addition to getting the past under control.

Malcolm
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Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:03 pm

Abe, your terrorist novel seemed realistic because the place where everyone began was credible. So, too, the material in the United States where the team members were living.

Malcolm
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Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:08 pm

I agree, Carol. I tend to do more research than I need, but it's fun, so I don't mind. My yet-to-be-published novel is set partially on an aircraft carrier. Even though I served on a carrier during the Vietnam war, I still did a lot of research because while I was there, I didn't keep a journal or make notes about anything.

It was important to me that it be correct even though some readers might not know one way or the other.

--Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:11 pm

Carol,

I don't seem to follow. To me, a story which goes by the actual history of a real-life with accuracy is a book well-worth reading as opposed to one that is not. I do not see the link with this being your weakness as an author. Am I missing something?

Regardless, I'm sure your work is excellent. Don't give up; it only takes one good idea to get to the top.
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Don Stephens
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:45 pm

Idea


Last edited by D. J. (Don) Stephens on Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:06 pm

Eric,

Carol's difficulty is with her opposition (authors) not her interest. She is between a rock and a hard place. She is not a historian but loves to write about things from the past (and does a great deal of research!). Top notch historians are either academics or have means that allow them to hire researchers to help them collect vast amounts of information, which can be sifted, sorted, collated and organised into texts that display a high level of expertise. This makes it very difficult for an enthusiast to compete. When you write books that are too highbrow for popular consumption and not rigorous enough for those seeking scholarship in writing, then it is difficult to place your work with a commercial publisher.

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alj
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:47 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Yes, Ann, the history facts can take a lot of time, though I like traveling through a time period with both yes open.

You appear to have been somewhat prescient though in addition to getting the past under control.

Malcolm

It was really strange, Malcolm. I was strongly tempted to go inside that pub, but never did.

Ann
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NYT BEST
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:55 pm

Research is a monumental waste of time and money.

If a gun is used I do not specify the kind. A gun works for me.
I prefer to focus on the carnage blood, guts and brains.

I don't let my story get bogged down in unneccesary details.
I just let it roll out--it rolls faster this way and the money rolls in faster also.
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Don Stephens
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:33 pm

Crying or Very sad


Last edited by D. J. (Don) Stephens on Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sat Feb 20, 2010 7:49 pm

Ann, maybe it's time for a vacation trip to that pub.

NYT, even if you don't care about the make and model of the gun, it's rather difficult to talk about the results being shot with it if the situation comes across as not being credible due to technical errors. One doesn't have to say it was a .22 or a .50 caliber, but if the novel is a crime novel, such details would certainly be in the police report and/or would be seen as clues to finding a killer. Since the kind of wounds that would be caused by a .22 are vastly different than those caused by a .50, one wouldn't want to describe them in such a way that was physically impossible to occur.

Don, one of my pet peeves is reading books where the facts don't fit the time period or the reality of the equipment, buildings, or places. As a worker at a railway museum some years ago, I was constantly reading novels about trains with inaccurate stuff in them. Some of the inaccuracies were so hideous that--unless the author was writing a fantasy or something in another universe where the laws of physics are different--the events in the novel were actually impossible. One favorite for made-for-TV movie producers is the passenger train that's involved in a terrorist attack or a collision, after which the cars split into sections and go racing down hills toward ammo dumps and other bad ends while the main characters try to figure out what to do. Anyone who does more than a few minutes of research will see that train car brakes automatically apply the instant the cars are separated from each other and/or the engine. End of movie plot!

One can write with little or no research if one writes about what they really know--say, a police officer writing about modern day crimes. Heck, it's his/her job, so s/he can fictionalize it without having to look a lot of stuff up.

Malcolm
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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: How do you do research for your novels?   Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:12 am

Good comments by all.

Don, the thing that made your book "Bearkiller" especially interesting was the authenticity you provided about Indian culture. I mentioned that in recommending your book to a friend.

When I read an early draft of Carol's story about the Cuban Missle Crisis, I was impressed with the accuracy and detail, however I felt that too many quotes was a distraction. It also came across in places as reporting (telling). But the material was and is great. She has done much work since and therefore my remarks may no longer be relevant.

I just read a book by Sam Bourne and wrote a review. He's written a number of best selling books. Some I've rated 5 Stars, but the review I gave this past week was a 3 Star. Too much irrelevant detail in places and I also felt he had a political agenda with this book.

The word "review" more often means "reader's impression" of a book. Malcolm writes a good review whereas I give my impression of what I read. On Amazon, there is no such distinction.
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