Famous words heard before a prank, right?
These are the words writers say to readers. We want our readers to trust us to take them into the world of our story and entertain them. We want our readers to trust us to take them away from their own lives for a while and bring them into the lives of our characters.
There are many ways we keep our readers’ trust, from creating believable characters, to ensuring those characters behave in ways that make sense, to avoiding the trust-shattering deus ex machina escapes from the hard places we pin them against. We make sure our ten-year-old character doesn’t behave like an adult, and our 18th-century merchant doesn’t sound like a 20th-century soldier.
We also need to keep our readers’ trust by making sure our facts are straight. There’s nothing quite like reading a story set in the 1980s that includes a reference to cellphones or laptops that weigh less than 10 pounds. If our story is set in the early 20th century, we do our research to make sure we stay true to the styles, music, movies, and other trends that existed in that time period.
Accuracy is an easy way to keep the reader locked into the story, instead of breaking out because the character clicked the safety on a Glock (Glocks don’t have safeties in the same sense most other handguns do) or turned the key to start an airplane (the starting process is more involved than turning a key).
Bottom line: we do our research. Research of facts is the easy part of keeping the reader in the story. The harder part is ensuring our characters and plots are believable. I can use Google Earth (oh, the wonders of Google!) to check which direction I need to go from Waikiki to Diamond Head. I can drive to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to get an idea how big the cherry is on the spoon.
Setting isn’t the only thing we research. The resources we have in the writing community rival Google and Wikipedia. An expert on police procedures or forensics is as close as a Facebook group or crime blog (check out retired detective and forensics coroner Garry Rodger’s dyingwords.net or crime writer Sue Coletta’s site). Writers who have done extensive research on a subject are experts in their own right (for Irish myth, see Ali Isaac’s site, or check out Mae Clair’s site for tidbits on all those creatures people swear exist–but do they?)
Do your readers a favor and make sure the easy stuff is right. For example, there’s a pet ferret in my WIP. I’ve never had a pet ferret, but one quick question in my Facebook writers’ group gave me a half dozen people who have actually owned pet ferrets. Don’t underestimate the resources you have in various writing groups. I know a couple writers who are wonderful resources when it comes to the likely behaviors and fears of my WIP’s main character.
In other words, with a little work, you can assure your reader they can trust you to have your facts straight. Now, research can’t help you if your character doesn’t react the way they should. (This is a great article about that aspect of story.) Those are the things critique partners and beta readers can help with.
Now, for a bit of shameless promotion, pop on over to Mae Clair’s site for my guest post. While you’re there, check out her blog. Hey, check out all the blogs I’ve linked to. They are all excellent resources for your research.
Here’s a tip: set a timer, because soon you’ll realize you spent an hour or two just checking out all the cool information, and not writing. Hey, trust me 😉
Gotta get back to the WIP!
Oh, just a quick aside. It’s spring, we had a snowstorm today, and my babies are looking good. My tomatoes and peppers are coming up, and the onions are impersonating grass.