Getting it right
People seem to think authors sit in front of the computer and, in a couple of weeks, maybe a month, their book is complete from beginning to end. If only it was that easy. There's a lot more to creating a story than typing words onto paper. For example, there's the research.
When I've mentioned research to non-writing friends, a few have said, "Just make it up. You're writing fiction." Once I'd recovered from the shock of their response, I pointed out instances in which they'd been annoyed by books, movies or television shows that were inaccurate.
Most authors I know - published as well as aspiring, regardless of genre - require some research to complete their story. Once an author captures a reader's attention, she doesn't want to lose her reader because of faulty details. A fire investigator doing a walk-through in a recently burnt building without protective gear. A police officer not securing a scene before the criminologists arrive. Mistakes like that will bump a reader right out of the story.
Some authors love research. While it's not high on my list of favorite things, I appreciate its value. While writing You Belong to Me, I read several books regarding independent film companies and movie production. For On Fire, I did a lot of research on fires and fire investigations. In fact, the research caused me to completely change two scenes from the original draft. Although that was a pain in the neck, I actually preferred the revised scenes.
My local writing chapter recently had the good fortune of hosting a presentation by a S.W.A.T. team leader. It was a very thorough, informative seminar that dispelled several myths and provided valuable insight into their personalities and private lives.
I've always had a fondness for the old S.W.A.T. TV series. I don't know whether it was the cool theme music, the action or the actors. I didn't like the movie as much, but I'd watch it again just to see LL Cool J.
Well, one of the myths the S.W.A.T. team leader dispelled was the average age of the officers. They aren't the youthful characters portrayed on film and TV. They're in their mid- to late 40s, and for a very good reason. The police departments want seasoned officers handling those volatile situations. Isn't that interesting?
As a reader, how important to you is accuracy in fiction novels? As a writer, have you come across any myth busters in your research?
Monday, July 02, 2007
Getting it right