AW Amazon Affiliate Store

confused by self-publishing? Find your way to self-publishing success in just 5 easy steps with this free how-to guide!

Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Would it be acceptable for a marine biologist narrator to occasionally bring up tid bits and facts?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
    Join Date
    Dec 2017

    Question Would it be acceptable for a marine biologist narrator to occasionally bring up tid bits and facts?

    I'm aware of the "only use 1% of what you research in your novel" rule, but I have a narrator who is an enthusiastic marine biologist and was wondering if it would be alright for him to periodically throw in some facts? I'm much more of a plotter/planner than a seat-of-the-pants writer, but I tend to like to think about the voice of the character I will be writing and write a first draft of the opening scene early on.

    In the opening scene he is scubadiving with two others and begins to describe the fish to the readers, casually throwing in their scientific name and pointing out the way their bodies are perfectly equipped to dash through the water. Of course he wouldn't go into great depths explaining something like computer coding, another thing I'm researching for the story, because he knows nothing about it. Nor would he go on for paragraphs about where the fish fit in the trospheres. Rather little sentence-long facts that naturally bleed into his narration. Would this be an exception to the research rule, or should I cut it and get straight to the point?

  2. #2
    Making Einstein cry since 1994 Maggie Maxwell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    In my head
    In the first draft, go ahead. Put in whatever you want. Then, when it comes to edit, start cutting.

    Long term, I think a few single-sentences here or there would be interesting as a character quirk, but also could be a careful line to tread. It can get annoying fast if done too much and interrupt the flow of the story.
    The insane who believe they are sane are crazy. The sane who know they are insane are writers.

    My 2017 Flash Fiction Challenge Countdown to 2018 thread
    (password: flashed)

    Sign-ups are closed for the 2017-2018 Sekrit Solstice Sci-Fi Fantasy Story Swap!

    Blog (updated 10/18/17)| Twitter | Pinterest | Wattpad

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW buzhidao's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Yes, put it in. Cos a) it's true to the character and b) the ocean is rad as hell.

    This is, however, subject to overall needs of the story. Is this or that tidbit related in the narrative in a realistic way ("By the way, that fish is a Ichthyobuf bufensis, and it is a pelagic creature who mostly eats krill and gives live birth to hundreds of thousands of little boofs at a time; so anyway, to continue with what I was saying before, I think my colleague ascended too fast and might die of the bends in a sec" vs "I pulled my fingers away from the reef, vividly remembering a colleague's story about losing their thumb to a moray eel, and continued on with the plot" blahdeblah)? Does it bog down the flow of things? Is it boring? Is it confusing? Is it needlessly repetitive? And so on and so forth--

    But all of that will depend on how you write it, so.

  4. #4
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    I'm not too clear what you mean here. Is the story written using First Person POV or is this diver a Third Person Limited POV character?

    What do you mean by 'describe... to the readers'? Is the character actually addressing the reader?

    And if he's an enthusiastic marine biologist it's presumably only highly unusual details he's noticing and commenting on.

    If he's scuba diving and the three of them have some sort of communication devices, why isn't he talking to or communicating with his companions instead of to the reader?

    And don't forget it's the opening scene. Focus on the story.
    Last edited by Bufty; 12-18-2017 at 12:24 AM.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  5. #5
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Arlington, VA
    I love it when the narrator gets geeky now and then . . . as long as it's kept to no more than a paragraph or so and it's only now and then. I don't mind learning a thing or two as I read. It also doesn't need to be exactly peer-reviewed accurate. For example, Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park could have gone on for hours, but instead dumbed it down to just the right degree and gave just enough (well, in my opinion just a tad too much and delivered too sanctimoniously) info to tickle my brain with the idea.
    2018 is Here! Are you up to the 2018 Reading Challenge? Make this your best reading year ever!

  6. #6
    -_- Odile_Blud's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    A cave. (I power the internet with my imagination)
    If you feel it is necessary for the story then I wouldn't advise against it.
    Last edited by Odile_Blud; 12-17-2017 at 11:18 PM.
    I forgot my old signature. Guess I'll make a new one or something. Let's see...something wise...uh..."he who does not write...? Is not a writer?"

    ...Does anyone even read this thing?

  7. #7
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Lost in space. And meaning.
    It would be odd for a first-person narrator to not insert their personality into their narrative. If the pov character is a marine biologist, it makes sense for them to make occasional asides and tangents that are relevant to their interests or knowledge. The challenge lies in balancing this with the need to move the story forward and keeping it brief enough to be interesting, not annoying.

    And of course readers will not all be the same in their tastes.
    Please excuse me, I was raised by wolves.

    My twitter - My FB - My blog

  8. #8
    Unclear. Unfunny. Delete. Helix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Far North Queensland
    Short answer: Yes.

    Long answer: Yes...with caveats. but what flavour of marine biologist is your character? An ichthyologist, coral biologist, water chemist, oceanographer? As Bufty says, things like how fish move through the water is such a basic element of fishosity, that it's probably going to be taken as read, so to speak. Whatever you do, make sure you get the details right and don't make it look obvious.

    (I just read a book where the main character was a zoologist and it was clear the author had No Idea.)

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Moderation is key. Dan Brown does it to an excessive degree in his books. Though the information is very interesting, it does detract from the flow and draw from the narrative at times.

  10. #10
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    This place is not a place of honor.
    Go all out, if it fits the character. I had a character ruin a barbecue with fun biological facts. Because they say write what you know!

  11. #11
    figuring it all out
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    ...from inside the house!!!
    Just don't go overboard with it. I was reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea recently and at many points it just becomes a straight up encyclopedia cut and paste, nothing to do with the plot and very boring.

    One option you might consider is using chapter epigraphs like Frank Herbert. Give some seemingly random fact that ends up being philosophically relevant to the chapter, while not disrupting the action of the plot.

    "It is commonly assumed that the migratory patterns of Molluscus Pacificus Slimius are dependent on sea temperature alone. This of course is nonsense- factors such as salinity, pollution level, mating conditions, even algae count all contribute. It is pressure- the universe of combined pressures that cause movement! The right pressure, applied to the right place in the right moment, can move entire worlds."
    - From a rejected commentary by Prof. Jedediah Scubadivius
    Query Packet
    76 rejections and counting.

  12. #12
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Arlington, VA
    I just started The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. Two of the main characters are a Dutch painter in the 1600s and an art restorer in New York in the 1950s. I am captivated by Smith's descriptions of how the paints are mixed, the technique of brush strokes, and some of the steps in not only restoring a 300 year old painting but also how to forge one (we know what's going on from almost page one, so that's not a spoiler). Even without knowing the vocab of painting, it's easy to follow and adds to the story and tone. If you need a good example of what you're talking about, I'd offer this.
    2018 is Here! Are you up to the 2018 Reading Challenge? Make this your best reading year ever!

  13. #13
    Store-brand Magic Mike Muggle Mike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Melville essentially scattered a PhD dissertation on whaling throughout Moby-Dick. Was it acceptable? Depends on the audience. But Melville managed to find his.

    I think particularly if it's related to the character you can get away with it. And if you keep the facts interesting, they might even do a lot to enhance the story.
    All the attitude, nunna the abs.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Sure, when I was reading Morning Glory one of the character's is learning to become a beekeeper so the author tossed in tidbits of info relating to bees and I found it interesting. Throw it all in and then when you edit you can decide what to cut.

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
    "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" ~Stephen King~
    WIP Dark Romance
    "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." ~Margaret Atwood~
    "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ~Mary Angelou~



Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Custom Search