Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writing Down the Bones: Research can be a Story Killer

Research is a very important part of the writing process. From writing fantasy to historicals you need to do your research. You have to decide what your world will be like in fantasies, science fiction and futuristic novels. Are you going to model it after a culture on Earth. Then you need to know how they live, what they wear, etc. In historicals you have to know what life was like, what was in the news, clothing, lifestyles anything and everything to make your story as real as possible.

But most of that research needs to stay in your head. As an editor I see all sorts of books, and had edited a few that have so much research information in them that it drags the story down. It's great that you do all that research but showing your reader how much research you had to do is not a good idea. Most don't need to know all the facts and how you got them as long as you got them right.

So what is too much?

That can be as subjective as can be, but I always say use as little as possible. I had to do research for a Portrait in Time and Love on the Run. I studied the timeline, as much as I could find, types of houses used in Louisiana, the clothing of the period, what sort of crops grew in that area - everything. It's one of the reasons I picked rice as a crop instead of cotton. It was grown in LA back in the 1880's.

In Love on the Run I had to find out how the train system worked. Which trains went where. That took a lot of time but I didn't bore my reader with all the tidbits I learned. By the way - did you know that the movies got it wrong with the bright colored clothing on a train? Soot from the coal powering the train would ruin your clothing.

My SF/Futuristics are the same way. The research is world building, but if you base your race off of a culture from Earth, like using the Blackfoot or the Incas, you need to know about their way of life. What sort of ceremonies they do. It doesn't mean you'll use it but you should know it.

What does your world look like? Does it have purple skies? Why? Is the air thinner there? Why? Cooler? why? This is where your research comes in. And your hours of research might only be one line in your book.

Research is important but it needs to go into the same file as your character development. Something you pull out to make the scene more three dimensional but not as a tool to say "Hey, look how much I learned to write this book."

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