Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way ~ Knowledge and Research

This is the last day for my take on the topic of knowledge and the writer. So let's jump on board...

It its often stated to write what you know or write what you love. It's true. If you love something you know it. If you read mostly historical romances or are a history buff, you are better suited to write historical romance than say a hard hitting, detective, murder mystery like Mickey Spillane type novel.

So as a reader what do you know and love? For me it's suspense. I've always been an action junkie. I like the twist and turns of roller coaster since infancy. It was my favorite ride ride at the boardwalk at the beach ask my father. "One more time, Daddy." Later as a young adult, I was at Disney World for the opening weekend of Space Mountain. Is it any wonder that I often compare my life to a roller coaster or write suspense with a soul? Not in my mind. I've lived a very high stress, excitement filled life compared to many others so I don't lack for material or emotions to pull from.

So what happens when there are some elements you are not sure of? You are writing what you do not know? I fell into that gray area when penning, Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption.

I knew some things about the CDC and the research studies they do. I knew the medical side because of my background in emergency nursing. I knew about missile conversions and sites for sale because my husband and I had seriously considered buying one. I knew about sustainability from my lifestyle as a prepper and survivalist. Haven't I planned to live off the grid in the near future, yep. What I had meager knowledge of was zombies which were an integral part of my story.

I had to broaden my knowledge base to include zombies. So I did what good writers in the past had done before me...I researched it. You don't have to be a know-it-all to be a writer, but the information has to be accuracy based. Nothing is worse than a reader calling you out on inaccuracies.

One such point in my book is it taking up to three days for the reanimation to take place. There are varying thoughts of
when reanimation into zombie form take place time wise and I stretched it considerably. Some readers took me to task on that point. It was done intentionally. I knew about the commonly held time frame and chose to ignore it. The novel offers a zombie point of view and a slow digression into mindlessness, or brain dead state unlike many other authors' conjecture that reanimation into the undead was brain dead with no consciousness. It was a creative tool rather than a unknown point.

Some readers and movie goers have no other purpose in life than to catch bloopers and typos. While I don't make it a lifelong profession, I do catch quite a few. So get your facts straight before you choose to creatively twist them.

So to recap...
  • Write what you know
  • Write what you like
  • Broaden your knowledge base
  • Know before you twist
Do you know or research before you write?
Keep writing and loving the Lord.

10 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jo - I've tended to do this with my blog posts - so I learn as I go, and research a little too ..

Keeps me stimulated .. I'm sure you've done lots of research over the years .. and zombies too! I haven't stretched myself into that direction yet .. cheers Hilary

Dana said...

I think it's a little of both for me. Right now I'm writing a middle grade novel, and I've been using some of my knowledge of those days to help me along. However, I know that times have changed, so I'm also researching what kids in that age group are like nowadays: what they're interested in, what they say, how they react to certain situations... I'm having a great time!

J.L. Murphey said...

Hilary- I never thought I'd ever write about zombie, mummies or vampires...but when the door closes there is always a window.

Dana- There is so much information easily available now that research is simple. Having fun, me too!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think making the process take longer is a unique twist.
Some people are just too critical.

Zan Marie said...

I *thought* I'd write SF based on a thirteenth century Queen of France's life, but then a story arrested me and woke me up to the world of Women's Fiction. Not only have I had to research child abuse and the child protections service, but I've had to research Women's Fiction, too. I mean, if I'm going to write the genre, don't I need to know what constitutes it. ; )

Deniz Bevan said...

I love research so even if I don't know something, it's exciting to learn about it.
It was during the Cherry Hill houseparty that I rediscovered my love of romance writing - so that was a true 'write what you know' moment for me!

Lara Lacombe said...

Research can be so fun and energizing--you're filled with all this new knowledge, and figuring out how to incorporate it into the story is a great time! :)

J.L. Murphey said...

Ooh I love it! Kindred spirits. When I was a child, most kids hated researching but not me.


Alex- I have no problem with unique twists because my mind is already twisted that way.

Zan Marie- By definition, I also write women fiction, but I hate the term because it excludes men who also enjoy my works.

Deniz- you gotta love those light bulb moments when realization finally dawns on you.

Lara- the trick is knowing how much research to include in your story. You don't want it to read like a college lecture.

michelle said...

Hi Jo. I've been writing lots of flash fiction, which hasn't really required any research.
Sounds like you possess a wealth of knowledge from all the research you've done over the years! And that includes zombies too...!

Writer In Transit

J.L. Murphey said...

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for stopping by. With flash fiction you don't necessarily need a wealth of research, but what you do need is to be able to know the fewest words necessary to convey the emotions, feelings, and settings.

I continually have a problem with writing short pieces. I can do it in nonfiction such as newspaper columns but in fiction, uhuh, can't be done.