Tag Archives: Research

Homework

Yesterday, I found myself talking to a sort-of co-worker (someone who works at the place I volunteer) about “homework” to do because I’m writing a sci-fi novel. This was after gushing about the book I just read, and then we promptly went into other novels that I need to read.

Dune and Starship Troopers are at the top among a slew of books that deliver the sci-fi universe in a way that sticks with you. I have yet to read them, but they’re sitting on my kindle, waiting for me. I’m a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to reading, because I dive right into books and sometimes it hinders my daily writing. Still, these two, with Ender’s Game, are something I’m very excited to at least have access to now.

This kind of calls back to a recent post I made, about research and accuracy, but also goes into the huge post I made about reading and writing fueling each other.

In this case, I think reading novels in the genre you’re hoping to publish and keep writing in is a good place to start, to help you learn more about what’s possible and where to set the bar. It shows you what you can do in your universe and what others do in theirs, what’s basic for each sci-fi novel, and what isn’t. How are they dressed, how do they act, are there aliens? What kind of languages do they speak, or is it all human?

Though, I realize that at a certain degree, at least the last few ones, are what shapes the conflicts and plot of the novel, depending on what the focus is.

For writing sci-fi, I do feel like my resume of what I’ve read and watched is a little small. I haven’t seen the original Star Wars flicks since I was six, I never really watched Star Trek (not even the newer movies), Doctor Who is something I only recently got into because of my sister, and I haven’t seen all of it.

Yeah… “Oops” comes to mind, but I have seen and read enough at least to have an idea of where to go, and plenty can argue that you don’t need to devour book and movie and television show of the genre you’re writing in just to have an idea of how to go about it. In some cases, the vagueness can spawn a whole new level of ingenuity in the universe that you’re writing, and creativity in ways that haven’t been seen before.

Then there are others who dive into the genre because they’ve been in it for so long. IE, fantasy, after playing DnD for years. It’s just second nature, common to them and something that isn’t hard to tap into. It’s like it becomes your default, your go-to.

Fantasy had been my standard for so long that I was surprised that my new favorite place to write had no magic in it. But why would you need magic when you can just tell the ship to get you what you need?

Having shows and books and movies to get into, helps us achieve the kind of mindset that puts us directly in the place we want to be for writing. If it’s a new genre for you, find something to watch or read, but don’t just look at one, look at as many as you can, and sort of spread your cards out to see what they have in common with each other. Make it the home for your headspace, at least until you want to or can move on to a different project.

Nothing says you have to, of course. There’s plenty of other ways to find examples without giving hours of your days away to a show or a book. Then again, you don’t have to divulge into the whole thing, either. Just enough to get an idea, however you’re comfortable.

Ultimately, isn’t that the point? Being comfortable with where you’re writing can take you anywhere, whether it be a publishing house or the ends of the galaxy.

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Accurate

To me, accuracy has always been the end all be all. I grew up not caring about it, but in the past few years, I’ve noticed how important it is. While it goes out the window in movies and shows, thereĀ are still those who swear by it.

When you’re writing fiction, the world is in your hands. It is yours to do what you choose with, you create the realism and how things are, you make things the way you see them or how you want them to be. All of that, how the characters react and why, what they say and do and how they move, it’s up to you, but what basis do you go on for what makes it that way?

That was always something difficult for me to remind myself of, especially when writing about something that involves the military. I realized that the type of military was in a totally different universe, so I had the ability to mix and match the values, regulations, rules of any type, all around the world, if I wanted to. There was that level of control. I’m still not finished developing the branch in question, but while I have more friends in the US military, I tend to take from that power the most.

Certain titles and names come from different places around the world, but I’ve used the US system as a base to build up from. On the other hand, I could have made it all up, too, but there should at least be an example that gives you an idea of where to go.

That brings up the question of research, which I shamelessly love.

Writing non-fiction is all about research. It’s digging up links and books and references to the point that you’re making, so much that it becomes countless . It’s the grown version of those papers you did back in high school, in a way.

Research for fiction is different. Writing a police or political thriller, what you find through research can help or hurt where you want to go with the story. It can provide a plot twist or kill an idea and open doors for new ones. Historical fiction, research becomes a little more important.

In conversation with my sister the other night, she mentioned an episode of Doctor Who that had dozens of plot holes, and it was directly tied in to French history. While they have creative license to go about it how they want, there is also a call to keeping things in line, accurate, and making sure things are done correctly. It is the difference between historical while being true to fact, and making up a history on your own. The writer in question did no fact checking, and even came out in saying that he didn’t bother. He just ran with it.

Don’t be intimidated by research. Though it sounds a nasty word, it’s not much more than hitting google and clicking through links that you know or feel are most trustworthy, and there are plenty of resources out there at your disposal.

My friend, after I got into a story about a girl with multiple personality disorder, suggested I talk to a psychologist about case studies on the matter if I wanted to know more. After realizing there was a social worker with a psychology degree at the place I volunteer, I decided to talk to her about the situation, and I got some pretty good information out of it. To my surprise, I was somewhat spot on, but getting a real life example helped a ton.

Other types of research include museums, parks, and going to places in town that have history you’re looking for or writing about. From a guest post, you can find inspiration and information anywhere. Sometimes, it’s right in front of your nose. Even accuracy can be fun!

The devil is in the detail. It all depends on how close you want to be to something, or how you want to portray it.

-The Novice Wordsmith