Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Trust me

9 Comments

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 πŸ˜‰

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.

IMG_0441

Peppers and tomatoes

IMG_0445

 

Advertisements

Author: Julie Holmes, author

Pen names: J. M. Holmes, J. M. Goebel A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I've been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. In real life, I am a technical writer with a family of two teens, a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, four chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

9 thoughts on “Trust me

  1. Great blog, Julie — research is vital. I read a mystery once that had Silicon Valley in Southern California rather than Northern California. At that point I quit reading and threw the book aside. Even checking milage and travel flight times. Readers catch all that. If you can’t drive from point A to point B in an hour, don’t have your character doing it in ten minutes. Map quest is great for double checking. Love the garden seedlings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent point, Roi! Google Maps is great for that sort of thing if one doesn’t have a paper map of the area (at least while they exist πŸ˜‰ ). I’ve even used Google Earth to see buildings in the areas I’m using, and how the streets and parking are laid out. And you’re right, when something like that is a blatant lack of fact-checking, I tend to stop reading. “Read” an audiobook set in MN (one of Tami Hoag’s novels) and the actress who read the book obviously didn’t do any checking on pronunciation of city names, which tainted the story for me, even though the story was otherwise accurate.

      Like

  2. Thank you for the shout-out, Julie. It’s great having you as my guest today with a fabulous post about research. Like you, I can easily get sucked into spending too much time on it. I may have to try your timer trick and see how that works. And you’re right about the community of writers and authors out there who willing offer up their knowledge when a question is tossed their way.

    We are enjoying lovely spring-like temps for the time being, but I saw images of the snowstorms hitting west of us. Glad your babies are looking good! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • We ended up with about 3 inches of snow, and with temps today forecast in the low forties, my guess is most of the snow will be gone by suppertime. Drove home in the storm yesterday–oh, joy. Love watching the snow, hate driving in it. And that’s why I love MN (yeah, not for the winter tho’ πŸ˜‰ )

      I’ll have to transplant the tomatoes into deeper containers next week, once they have two sets of true leaves (instead of the smooth baby leaves). I have to keep telling myself to plant a smaller garden this year; we still have a ton of potatoes left from harvest!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Snow is gorgeous to look sat, but horrible to drive through. I am soo with you on that! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aw, thank you for the shout-out Julie. Yeah, we had snow today, too. Bummer. I was really enjoying the nice weather. But in New England, weather is never a certainty. Loved your post. πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, right? Soooo nice last week, and the week before, then this. On the bright side, the snow should be gone by the end of the week! Thanks for stopping by, Sue! Missed the FB crime puzzles this week; been buried in my WIP, but they’re so much fun! Thanks for those πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I starting writing fantasy because I thought I wouldn’t need to do any research. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. What a dummy. You are absolutely right that research is essential. The details can make a scene. πŸ™‚ Heading over to check out your guest post. The sprouts look good. I haven’t started yet. Still too early here, but soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Yep, there’s still some research with fantasy, but I suppose if you concoct EVERYTHING from scratch, you might avoid it. Still, it’s way too much fun to skip πŸ™‚

      I figure I’ll have to transplant the tomatoes into deeper pots next week, once they get 2 sets of true leaves. Too early? Naw πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s