Novelists go to great lengths for research gems
Good research can make or break a story, which is why you may have heard it said that you should ‘write what you know’.
One of my life mottos is I’ll try anything once. A philosophy that has provided me with a plethora of life experiences to draw on when I’m writing. Well recently I joined two-dozen romance writers for a gun day. Yes, you heard right.
We all traipsed into the wilderness (okay, that may be an exaggeration) to shoot thirteen different guns, all in the name of research. It was frightening and exhilarating, but there’s one thing for sure, there’ll be guns in our next books.
Research in general can be exhilarating, but there are two main pitfalls.
1) Most writers will tell you how easily they can be lead down the rabbit warren of investigation, following all sorts of interesting leads, and magically making hours at a time disappear.
2) Just because we’ve collated all this fascinating data, DOES NOT mean we should put it all in a book (unless it’s non-fiction). The iceberg principle is crucial when deciding what to include in a story. The writer may need to know the ins and outs of gunmanship, but the reader doesn’t care. They want only what is necessary to drive the story forward and make it come alive in their imaginations.
Of course, my research won’t stop here. When it comes to writing my next book, I’ll select the model of gun being used and I’ll do more detailed research about it. I might even talk to someone who owns one, in the hope that I’ll learn something you can’t read on the internet. Something that will take the use of that gun from a prop to a feature. And I might refer to the multitude of information snippets and links I have saved over the years for just such occasions. As Ryan Holiday says, “…you’re as rich as your database.”
So, when I write about guns, I not only have a better idea of some of the idiosyncrasies of different weapons, but know how they feel in my hand, how to load them, what they sound and smell like when fired. Oh the kick back!
A special thank you to the Myponga Pistol & Shooting Club Inc., who welcomed a gaggle of chatty women into their man cave (an impressively spacious affair with dining tables, a massive pot belly stove and a drinks bar) and took great care to teach us all the safety considerations associated with guns, as well as patiently answering our myriad of questions.
And did I mention they put on a mean barbeque lunch? You couldn’t find a more good-natured bunch.
Check out this fantastic article by Ryan Holiday: How I did research for 3 New York Times Best Selling Authors (in my spare time). I particularly like the bit about getting the most from your internet searches.
Over to you
What interesting life experience have you had that could make its way into a story?