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Research: Does Inaccuracy in a Novel Bother You? By Connie Vines

April 13, 2016 by in category Archives tagged as , , , , , ,

 I blog weekly on two sites (in addition to my own) and monthly on four  website, I thought I’d post a topic from my Round Robin Series.

Topic: All story genres take some research for establishing details in the setting. What type of research have you had to do? Does it bother you when you read something happening in a story that is inaccurate historically, socially, scientifically, etc?

Does it bother me?

Yes.

 However, in my case, there are varying degrees of irritation.  If it is an easily found fact, or a fact that any functioning adult should be aware of then, yes—I am very irritated and will probably not finish the novel.  On the other hand if current verbiage is used or the description of an item of clothing is more modern, that could be the writer’s choice.  The writer may feel that her ‘readers’ wish to have the ‘flavor’ of a historical story without the genealogy charts or gritty reality of the era. Then I am okay.  But to pass the facts off as accurate/ or marketed to make the reader believe this is not a fictionalized story—as in “The Other Boleyn Sister” or Disney’s “Pocahontas” animated movie (with what I like to call the Vulcan-mind-meld when the Hero and Heroine suddenly speak and understand each other),  I do become angry.  Apparently, I clamp my teeth, and my husband will swear that I growl when these movies become a topic of conversation.

We all make mistakes, I remind myself.  Alternatively, the copy-editor adds/ deletes a needed fact.  Moreover, sometime we simply ‘thought’ we removed it from the final draft.  Still sloppy research makes for sloppy writing.  If you do not like research, build your own world/town/or, do not give the reader a date or place to hang her hat on.  You and add a statement:  liberties were taken; the mistakes are my own, etc.

Researching

Any professional writer knows there is a lot more to the job than simply writing. There is also revising, editing, promoting, and much more. Before I even consider typing: Chapter One.  Whether I am writing, historical, or fantasy, I conducted days—if not months or even years, gather my research material and scheduling interviews.

Research is vital to every writer.  Contemporary novels required daily research to keep up-to-date on the latest tech item, hairstyle or whatever relates to your storyline.
Every encounter with a new person or visiting a new place is an opportunity for better, more descriptive writing. Writers never truly take a vacation, or turn off the research part of her/his brain.

So how do I organized my research material?  (Tossing everything into a large bin is oh-so-not-the-way to be organized.)

#1: Keep a File Folder for Ideas

I have files where I stash clippings of articles on specific topics I feel will come up again, or will one day make great short stories/articles.  I have plain colored folders for “shared” topics (I write multiple genres), cute folders (for YA/Teen topics), action folders for supernatural stories, etc.

These clippings are often story generators or prompts to open a chapter/create a pivot point. How many times have you heard something on the radio or watched something on television and thought, “Wouldn’t that be so great in my next novel”?

Story prompts can be anything that you find interesting, anything that relates to your genre or area of writing interest. Because my books are character driven, I tend to be drawn to articles that talk about the human condition (i.e., why we do the things we do) or specific topics that I feel relate to my particular ‘character’.

 #2: Story Premise Research First

When you start a new project, you must make some decisions. What is the theme of your book? (We might also think of this step as “what is the premise of your book?”) The answer to this question will guide your starting research.

My third book, Whisper upon the Water, focused a lot on the living conditions and societal attitudes about Native American children. I already knew that Native American children were forced to attend government run boarding schools after the Indian Wars, but I did not know about the process, and how it affected the children or how they adapted. Therefore, I began with interviews, tours of the schools still in operation and trips to historical archives and reservations.

Before I wrote a single word, I looked into this, and the answers I found are what formulated my plot points. I needed this foundation of research to create a convincing plot, otherwise I would not tell the story correctly.  I wanted the truth, I wanted historical accuracy and I wanted my readers to have an emotional connection to my characters.

Poor research in the beginning often results in a manuscripts dying at the halfway point. Think of this step as the foundation of your novel.

#3: First-Hand Accounts

As a rule, I set my stories in placed I have lived or visited.  However, a writer does not have to go to a city/country to get a feeling for it.

Online Resources

Travel sites, local blogs, and YouTube all have a place in a writer’s arsenal. In particular:
• Travel Sites often have detailed maps and downloadable audio walking tours that can give you context for notable buildings and directional substance for urban areas to include in your book.
• YouTube is a major resource, often underutilized by writers. Those seemingly normal videos are great for providing local terminology, dialect, visual perspective and even minor details like the amount of traffic at a particular park or on a particular street.
 #4: Details

• Using Google Maps and Streetview, for my upcoming release anthology at BWL: Gumbo Ya Ya—for women who like romance Cajun & men Hot & Spicy! I was able to get a street view of that area and I could ‘walk’ the streets as they appear in New Orleans. The Streetview feature setting on Google Maps plops you down right at street level and gives you a 360-degree view of everything including traffic, crowds, and architecture.  While I do have my personal photos and memories of the city, it is always good to make certain the details are ‘just right’.

#5: Remember to Write

You can always do a fact check on the smaller items as part of the final revision process.

When I am dictating or typing my story, unless an earth-shattering event is in the works, I do not stop the process.  I will type:** research time line of Spanish Flu or   ** insert the popular song year, and keep writing.  When I go back over the material, I will have time to add the particulars.

Research is fun.  Unlike may authors, research in my favorite part of writing.  Like a method actor, I immerse myself in the process.  Hobbies, Music, Books, and Food (well, not food when I wrote my Zombie novella, “Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”. right now, however, it is shrimp Creole, pecan pie and coffee with chicory).  Research need not be cumbersome. If you are interested in your subject matter, then it is not work. It is just another part of writing a book.

 I believe it is writing a book that is rich in research helps to separate the writers from the multi-published authors.

Readers, how do you feel about this topic?  How important is historical accuracy to you?

Happy Reading,

Connie Vines


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The Power of Emotion by Connie Vines

August 13, 2015 by in category Archives tagged as , , , , , , ,
e·mo·tion
əˈmōSH(ə)n/
noun
1.    a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
“she was attempting to control her emotions”
synonyms:
·         instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.
“responses have to be based on historical insight, not simply on emotion”
synonyms:
instinctintuition, gut feeling
Raw.  Naked.  Emotions.  As an author of romance/ romantic suspense novels, emotion is essential to my story line.  However, as a human being experiencing strong emotions can be overwhelming.  Moreover, often, in the case of fear and sorrow, very unwelcome.
The concept of (raw flesh) exposed from an extensive wound, exquisitely sensitive to the lightest touch, reminds me of my vulnerability and mortality.  
Naked emotion.
How do you deal with emotions in your story lines?
Do you color your story in pastels?  Bold charcoal strokes?  Or, perhaps bright slaps of color? 
Or do you favor dark, deep Gothic hues?
In my opinion, all successful/popular novels, no matter what genre, have one key element: emotion.  Emotion lies at the core of every character’s decision, action, reaction, and motivation.  All of which drive the story. A character’s personal journey does not exist without emotion—it would be pointless. The plot would be made up meaningless events that a reader would not invest any time to read.  Why?  Because above all else, the readers choose a novel to have an emotional experience.  Be it a wild roller coaster ride of pure terror in a horror novel; reliving the sweet courting experience of an inspirational romance; discovering a new unexplored, heart-pounding world of a sci-fi; the pleasure of solving a who-done-it; or, pure laughter and fun in a read-it-at one setting comedy—readers want to connect with your characters.  With this connection to characters, who provide entertainment and whose trials and experiences may, in turn, add meaning to their own life journeys.
We are emotional beings.  Feelings propel us. Drive us.  Define us. Moreover, while it may seem that most of those exchanges happen during conversation, studies show that 93% of all communication is nonverbal.  Even in instances where we try not to show our feelings, we are still telegraphing messages through body language.  Because of the, each of us is adept at reading others without a word being uttered.
                Readers have high expectations.  Long done are the long intros: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  We had been wander, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so somber, and a rain so penetrating”.  . . I am certain you recognize the first sentences of my favorite classic novel, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  A delightful read, rich in detail and thick with emotion—but not a read easily consumed during a pause in a workday, or after getting toddlers off to bed.  Readers no longer wish to be told how a character feels; they want to experience the emotion for themselves.
                This leaves the writer with the challenge of ensuring that our characters express their emotions in ways that are both recognizable and compelling to read.  Personally, I find that less is more.  I am always aware of the pacing of my story.  Too many clues to describe a character’s feelings can dilute the reader’s emotion experience.  Backstory is only pepper in to allude to a ‘trigger’ emotion.  Example:  Marty, in the BACK TO THE FUTURE series of movies.  A cliché, but calling Marty ‘chicken’ worked every time—the viewer knew and expected ‘something’ to happen. Not that I have ever, I hope, have resorted to a cliché, but my characters have a ‘fatal flaw’.  I cannot divulge any that I have used because it would ruin the story lines.  Nevertheless, we all have our ‘trigger’ emotion.  If you have siblings, undoubtedly, you were tormented with it on numerous occasionally.  Our ‘characters’ may or may not recognize a personal trigger emotion.  This is writer’s preference in relationship to plot and character development.
                One emotion that I find fun to watch (in young children) and it easy to work into a YA story is amazement.  To a toddler everything is new and amazing.  The child’s eyes widen.  The child becomes suddenly still.  May suck in a quick breath/hand covering one’s mouth. Stiffening posture.  Rapid blinking followed by open staring.  Reaching out and touching or taking a step back. I am certain you could add to the list my recalling your personal experiences or observations.
                Now how would that young child feel, internally?  A heart would seem to freeze, the pound. Tingling skin. Adrenaline spikes. The mental reaction in the amazed person could be disorientation, momentarily forgetting all else, or wishing to share the experience with others.  Now say your character is a shy or too cool to give anything away.  How could this emotion be suppressed? Self-hugging, jerky, self-contained strides, Eyes widening a bit before control is asserted, mouth snapping shut.  The clues are always apparent. 
                I like to get to know my characters, savor my scenes, and always dig deeper for the right word. The right motivation.
                I enjoy the journey to discover my characters, their hopes and wishes.  I feel blessed to tell each one of their stories.  And I hope that my novels, in turn, bring hours of enjoyment into each of my readers’ lives.
                In closing, I would like to share a bit of my past.
                When my first YA sweet historical novel was published, I was honored at a Red Nations Powwow.  A tribal elder, Jacques Condor, told me I was being honored as a Storyteller.  He reminded me, always, to be humble, because it is the Story who chooses the Storyteller to bring it Life. 

                My Mandela hangs my living room wall, and my hand-tooled silver ring is worn to remind me of both my gift, and my duty.
                Thank you for taking the time to read my first post to OCC/RWA’s A Slice of Orange
Blog.  

Please stop by next month.  

              
                Connie Vines

Fall Release: BWL, Ltd.
Novella,
BWL, Ltd., current release

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