Friday, October 18, 2013


I love research.  I love history and tactics and logistics.  I love finding out just how stranger than fiction truth can be.

I love hand-manufacturing techniques, learning what it took to make a simple horseshoe, let alone something as complex as a full suit of armor.  I like finding out interesting little details and then working them into my own writing.

Drachmas?  I thought this was an action story!
I can spend hours on end searching down the tiniest of details.  Sometimes, this has a detrimental effect on my writing.  Putting all that time and effort into figuring out exactly what the coin denominations were for the major ports of Greece and the Mediterranean.  The conversation between characters that resulted from this effort ended up being scrapped because, well, it was a lecture on ancient coin denominations that made no sense in the context of the story.

Why would three characters start instructing each other on the different kinds of coins they all should already know about?

Such is the life of a writer.

We often must kill our hard-researched and hard-written darlings.

Quick, take the blue pill!
The other problem with research, especially in the internet age, is that while it’s easy to stumble upon something that sounds cool, it’s even easier to find information that isn’t true.  We writers have to put on the appearance of being an expert in all fields, when in fact we may only have a decent handle on one or two and we’re faking the rest.

You see, when you create a world, and the characters that inhabit it, you strive for realism in every aspect.  History, society, culture, events all need to appear to be organic occurrence.  The characters reactions should be organic and personal.  At the end of the day, though, they’re happening because the author wants them to happen.

How much for the brick in the window?
We have to do everything in our power to keep readers from pulling back the curtain.  It’s not enough to just put up a sign in front that says, “Pay No Attention.”  We have to tack, nail, screw, chain, bolt, and (if we’re really successful) wall over the curtain with brick and mortar.  The world needs to be so real that a reader can step out of this one and into that one seamlessly.

How does that happen?  Three tips: research, research and more research.  It helps if an expert has already condensed research for you, so that you only have research those important bits.  Experts like  like I Clausewitz and limyaael who can take a lot of the pressure off a writer.  But the research still needs to take place, and it should be done.

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