Thursday, 26 June 2014

Do Your Homework

Thanks, Lorraine for inviting me onto your blog today. I'd like to talk about research. I'm not sure if it's because I taught for so long that I pick up on tiny mistakes automatically or if I am just a pernicketty (fussy) person.

How much research is enough? I expect that depends on the writer's genre. Obviously historical fiction is going to take much more time on homework than a subject in which the author is already an expert. This could be tricky.
“OK so I'm a world renowned authority on the Dewey library system – now how do I make my novel interesting?”

So the answer is to create your own world and make up the rules as you go along, is it? That may work for some readers but I rather like there to be rules and not have “get out of jail free cards” introduced as soon as the characters get into a sticky situation.  Suddenly Thegisha remembered the dissolving walls spell her Granny had taught her as a child. Not convincing!

I was highly flattered when a well-known writer asked for my advice on the handling of certain magical or cursed items as, even though her world was fantasy, she wanted it to ring true to readers who knew something about the subject. Never, ever say “nobody will notice” because one of them will!

In these days of internet and Google etc. I find no excuse for writers getting very simple things totally wrong. I read with interest when two characters drove from Lyon to Caen in two hours. I live in France and I was wondering what they were driving – a Harrier jump jet?

Also, please don't show off. There are details that are necessary and those that are plain padding. A certain male adventure novelist loves to display his in-depth knowledge of irrelevant detail such as the names of hatch covers on different types of sea-going tankers. Very clever, dear, put it away, nobody is interested.

It is a fine line to tread and I expect that many readers are not as bothered as I am. Some, I suspect, are even more so. Even in these days of electronic fact-finding, you can always ask a friend.

BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France for over twenty years and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn't have all those, I'd have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing.

As Ailsa Abraham :
Shaman's Drum published by Crooked Cat Crooked Cat
(nominated for the People's Choice Book Prize)

Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter - @ailsaabraham
Facebook – Ailsa Abraham

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions


Sue Barnard said...

A great post, and sound advice to all of us. Thank you!

Marit Meredith said...

Great advice! Thank you for sharing with us, and take it steady on that motorbike! :-)

Carol Hedges said...

This rings so true. There's nothing worse than a badly researched book...especially if you just know a quick visit to the internet could have coughed up the answer.

And yes -- the temptation to show off one's research has to be strenuously resisted! But that's why God invented blogs!!!

Ailsa Abraham said...

Thanks so much for commenting. I try to do it with humour otherwise I come over as rather pedantic.