PDA

View Full Version : What have you done to make your story more authentic?



SophiaDreith
08-07-2012, 08:41 PM
I think this is the right place to post this. Please let me know if it isn't.

One of the things I've enjoyed about writing is learning new things. One of the things my friends like hearing about is all the crazy $hit I've done in order to try and make my novel more authentic. My most recent episode had me allowing my friend to give ME and IV because one of my main characters is an EMT and has to do that in the story. He thinks about the process in detail while doing it so I wanted to make it as realistic as possible.

Other notable funness from me includes watching an 8 minute video on how to field dress a pig after hunting and they show the entire thing. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. And for my space novel, many of the characters come from Mars(The logistics of making that happen were an adventure in and of themselves) and the Marsians have to use a different calender than Earth humans so I created a spreadsheet that follows a specific formula where you can enter either a Marsian or Earth date and the spread sheet will spit out the equivalent date for the other planet.

I really want to hear from people the crazy things that you've done, watched, and read in order to make your story as realistic as possible.

Persei
08-07-2012, 08:53 PM
I've made a deep study on demonology. I did tons of research on the subject. Very... Enlightening. Now, I have a plot bunny for another novel and I need to re-read all the books I've read about history of surgery, medicine, cancer and psychiatry. And also I need to study angels. And the three books of Enoch.

My father studies all kind of things so I have material enough in non-fiction books.

Snick
08-07-2012, 11:31 PM
Just a calendar for Mars? I've corrected Earth's so that it will be off less than 4 days within a million years. It will come in handy when I get my time machine back from the shop.

Flagship
08-08-2012, 12:05 AM
I usually just open a tab in google or wikipedia. Simple, easy, and unobtrusive while I am writing. If I feel that is not enough, I'll make a note and come back to it later for more serious research.

I may have to splash a friend in the face with a hot latte while he's wearing shades to see it's effects...

lastlittlebird
08-08-2012, 12:37 AM
I've been reading survival manuals, researching pterosaurs and caracals (a type of big cat) and small sailing ships for my latest WIP.

But, I honestly think the best research I ever did was joining the Peace Corps a few years ago and spending a couple of years in Mali. That's a source of knowledge and inspiration that I don't think will ever run dry.

Cath
08-08-2012, 01:51 AM
I think this would be a better fit in the Roundtable, so I'm moving it there.

Sophia, the Story Research guidelines (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=248198) are pretty specific about what is and isn't a good fit for the forum, please check them out.

KateJJ
08-08-2012, 02:18 AM
Not me, but my husband, who is my creative collaborator: I was working on the epic battle at the end of my last book. It takes place in a city and we'd been discussing how the battle would go and I just couldn't picture it. So I went to take a nap and when I came back he came out of the garage and said "I didn't have time to build it to scale or paint it" and handed me a one-foot-by-two-foot wooden mockup of my city, with different sized dowel rods for towers and thin wooden bits for the walls and he'd built up the center so the town wrapped around the keep just like I'd described it. And then we blocked out the whole battle using the model. It was awesome and I said "Oh so THAT'S how that guy gets from here to there" about three times.

scarletpeaches
08-08-2012, 02:20 AM
I had sex with a vampire.

crunchyblanket
08-08-2012, 02:42 AM
I had sex with a vampire.

Did he sparkle?

Stacia Kane
08-08-2012, 03:47 AM
Drugs.

Research demanded it.

SophiaDreith
08-08-2012, 03:53 AM
I think this would be a better fit in the Roundtable, so I'm moving it there.

Sophia, the Story Research guidelines (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=248198) are pretty specific about what is and isn't a good fit for the forum, please check them out.

Sorry about that. There are so many different forums, I'm still not 100% about what goes where. I'll try to be more careful in the future.


Not me, but my husband, who is my creative collaborator: I was working on the epic battle at the end of my last book. It takes place in a city and we'd been discussing how the battle would go and I just couldn't picture it. So I went to take a nap and when I came back he came out of the garage and said "I didn't have time to build it to scale or paint it" and handed me a one-foot-by-two-foot wooden mockup of my city, with different sized dowel rods for towers and thin wooden bits for the walls and he'd built up the center so the town wrapped around the keep just like I'd described it. And then we blocked out the whole battle using the model. It was awesome and I said "Oh so THAT'S how that guy gets from here to there" about three times.



I had sex with a vampire.

Did he sparkle?



Drugs.

Research demanded it.


Nothing to really add except that these all made me laugh. :ROFL:

Al Stevens
08-08-2012, 03:56 AM
I walked through a 3-D model of Dealey Plaza.

ETA: Computer model, that is.

triceretops
08-08-2012, 04:26 AM
Lots of science-oriented research, no matter what the subject matter. And that's because my stories are rife with it, even the paranormal.

tri

gothicangel
08-08-2012, 06:40 PM
Researched Roman history/ Iron Age Scotland until my eyes bled.
Visited as many archeological sites in Scotland and N. England [and museums] as possible.
Caught in the middle of of a snow/hale storm in the middle of a field at Carrawburgh.
Found an unexcavated lilias pit at Rough Castle [just outside Falkirk.]
Stepped in sheep shit at Birdoswald.
Enrolled on a course on Classical Studies and another in Latin.

Shadow_Ferret
08-08-2012, 06:45 PM
Wait. You had a friend give you an IV? O.o

Geez, I just go to the library.

Lycoplax
08-08-2012, 07:00 PM
I'm working on a story based in Plato's account of Atlantis, and for that, I've been pestering my friend with a degree in Classics. Unfortunately, her leaning was more toward Roman society than Greek, but she still helped a hell of a lot.

If I write a story based on anything research-able, (most of my stories involve me making up all the rules and histories and details and stuff) I usually spend a day or three gathering as much knowledge on the topic as possible.

But for the most part, I'm the kind of person who loves learning weird, random information. I hoard books of trivia, and in fact I have been able to use that trivia more than once in my life. Could it get me a job, though? Of course not.

Shoestring
08-08-2012, 07:13 PM
I'm gonna have to be getting neck-deep in a study of the workings of political systems here soon, thanks to my MC's sudden career change. I don't think I'll ever forgive him for that.

Eddyz Aquila
08-08-2012, 08:43 PM
Lots of research, acting my characters, playing video games, checking out some movies on the era. And listening to music respective of the era. (historical)

Definitely works. :)

T J Deen
10-11-2012, 04:12 AM
I vacationed with my family in Nantucket since an important location in the story is a fictional island in that area. as a result i was fascinated with the 'widow's walks' or 'widow's watches' (a platform or walkway on the tops of the houses where a whaler's wife would go to watch for the returning ship her husband is on --quite a romantic idea).

as a result i added an element of that to the story.

just don't tell my family the reason we went there was to get a real feel for life in New England, they're starting to get annoyed with the time i'm putting into this book.

GingerGunlock
10-11-2012, 04:43 AM
YouTube has a surprisingly rich number of instructional videos, depending on what you're looking for (combat disarms, field stripping guns, baking souffle)

I'll frequently use Wikipedia as a leaping off point, for the references at the ends of articles.

Google Maps has really been my friend with my current WIP, for geographical features and travel times.

I also hit the library (since I work there) and order all manner of books. My coworkers almost don't bat an eye anymore (though I did get a reaction when Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand came in for me.)

If possible, I talk to people knowledgable in the field. One of my "library friends" trained as a medic during Vietnam (though was never in Nam, to my knowledge). Another was a Seebee during peacetime, along with other interesting travels, I've emailed former college professors, etc.

Jamesaritchie
10-11-2012, 11:20 PM
Mostly, I've always tried to live an interesting life, and to do as many things as possible.

But things I've done specifically for writing include going to my first autopsy, walking through a lot of dark alleys after midnight, making my own quill, ink, and parchment, and writing a story by kerosene lamp with same. Spending a voluntary week in jail. Climbing a cliff free style because I wasn't certain how my protagonist would do it, or even if it could be done. Made cement out of naturally occurring limestone, clay, and sand.

A few other things.

I've found hands on makes anything easier to write about. Most readers may not notice the difference, but those who have done hands on things themselves will notice. Besides, it's fun. There's book learning, and then there's real life experience. I'll take the real life experience every last time.

Specval
10-11-2012, 11:42 PM
Spending a voluntary week in jail.

Really? For some reason this amazes me. How did you manage this? I imagine you didn't walk to the front door and say "Excuse me I'm writing a novel and woud love to spend a week inside."


My research has been mostly personal experience and internet based. However if the Gov. is tracking my internet history the IRS is going to audit me, and I'm probably on the FBI's No-Fly list.

The end of this year I'm moving into a community where I have multiple police officers and at least 1 Crime scene Unit 'person' I might be the new one to the community but I'll be the one bringing cookies and pies over to them. I cannot wait.

It amazes me the amount of research a writer has to do compared the little amount that actually makes it directly into our stories.

WeaselFire
10-11-2012, 11:59 PM
Let's see, I hacked up my in-laws and scattered the parts in the desert, staged a daylight bank robbery in Missouri, beamed the Admiral's pet ShiTzu to the rings of Saturn, and left my kid sister to Zombies after she caught the virus...

In reality, my work is probably 80% research and 20% experience. I do try to write about places I've been or go to them before I write them, and my fiction usually includes situations I or people I know have experienced. Though journalism and writing non-fiction magazine articles taught me how to become an "instant expert" in almost anything.

Except women... :)

Jeff

Devil Ledbetter
10-12-2012, 12:46 AM
My MC is a Vietnam vet. I read a pile of memoirs by Vietnam vets, and stocked up on antique Life magazines from that era.

Buffysquirrel
10-12-2012, 02:13 AM
I'm still trying to convince my family that to write my Roman novels properly I really need a horse. No luck so far.

Most of my research is paper or internet. I'm not big on going out there and doing stuff. I have however found some fascinating sites on the internet--like one dedicated to various methods of fire-starting, and another that explained, at length, how you make leather.

ladybritches
10-12-2012, 02:24 AM
Ha,ha. Buffysquirrel, I'll let you borrow my horse. But just to warn you, he's the reason I know what it'd be like to fight a dragon. ;)

Faide
10-12-2012, 02:51 AM
Then you can borrow mine, Buffy, he's generally a level-headed lad :D

Lessee, I've done parkour, taken archery lessons, falconry lessons, watched live demonstrations of arquebuses and crossbows (plan to get hands-on experience here soon enough), visited a handful of castles in Scotland, bought a sword and a dagger for research purposes, worn conquistador armour for an hour, LARPed a lot, saved a duck which was badly mauled by a goshawk, butchered and cleaned others, raised a chicken in my room--the list could go on forever. My parents own an old manor which now serves as a farm/riding school, so I have plenty of experience with horses, other farm animals (except cows and sheep, we've never owned that), and wildlife (both plants and beasts), so such details come very easily to me.

I read a lot, too, and while that helps, nothing can compare to hands-on experiences, at least not for me. I can get a decent picture from reading a few books on a subject, but it's not before I've actually done it myself that it feels, well, real. I read a lot about archery, for example, but I just didn't manage to get the scenes right before I actually strung a bow myself and let the arrows fly.

Here's hoping I won't have to personally find out how it feels to be shot by a flintlock pistol :D

Anna L.
10-12-2012, 01:52 PM
[...] handed me a one-foot-by-two-foot wooden mockup of my city, with different sized dowel rods for towers and thin wooden bits for the walls and he'd built up the center so the town wrapped around the keep just like I'd described it.

That's so cool. Now I want models too!

In my case... I didn't do things FOR the novel, I did things I wanted to do and hoped they might come in handy IF I wrote the novel. I took three years of Japanese language classes. I went to Japan and visited places of interest (temples/shrines/palaces). I watched Japanese shows that had a similar feel to what I wanted to do.

Something I wish I'd done but didn't: take Ia´do classes (it's an art based on katana moves). It might have helped for fighting scenes.

MoLoLu
10-12-2012, 04:46 PM
Mostly, books and google for me. Nothing interesting.

Practical experience was never for research purposes. Had a few LARP sword duels (bloody hell, makes you respect the medeival soldiers who did that in full gear). Not exactly realistic but very enlightening. And I've fired guns, though again not for research purposes. Wish I'd payed more attention back then, would've saved me a lot of trouble while writing, but I didn't. Guess my job goes into my writing too but that's, meh, not so much research either.

Really wish I could work up the courage to get in a threesome. Would help a lot with... okay, let's just say the internet has enough examples to get inspired by.

jaksen
10-12-2012, 05:09 PM
Mostly, I've always tried to live an interesting life, and to do as many things as possible.

But things I've done specifically for writing include going to my first autopsy, walking through a lot of dark alleys after midnight, making my own quill, ink, and parchment, and writing a story by kerosene lamp with same. Spending a voluntary week in jail. Climbing a cliff free style because I wasn't certain how my protagonist would do it, or even if it could be done. Made cement out of naturally occurring limestone, clay, and sand.

A few other things.

I've found hands on makes anything easier to write about. Most readers may not notice the difference, but those who have done hands on things themselves will notice. Besides, it's fun. There's book learning, and then there's real life experience. I'll take the real life experience every last time.

I believe in this same philosophy, though I'm too much of a wimp to spend time (voluntarily) in jail. Plus the dampness might make me need to use my inhaler. :D

But I have written about 'things' which I personally have experienced, incl. events I'd rather not have happened. For ex. I was chased up a beach at night by a man in a trenchcoat - that really happened to me and a friend when we were eleven. I know exactly how that feels. I also know how a boat rocks underneath you as the wind comes up, or what a house falling into the ocean (off an eroded cliff) looks and sounds like. I know the salt marshes and beaches of Cape Cod intimately and what it's like to walk in a quaking bog (found in southeastern MA) - complete with little pools of quicksand all about. (Hint, walk on the hummocks, close to the trees in such an area.)

I've also done research like walked an old empty house to get a feel for its size by using my pace, or stride, instead of a measuring tape. (I used this info. in a recent story.) Though I'm not a hunter, I know what a gun should sound like and how to string and use a bow (bow and arrow) and lots of other stuff. Though I haven't done things quite as adventurous as JAR, I still swear by direct experience - when it can be safely done. I hate it when a simple fact in a book is SO WRONG and a moment's brief research would have cleared it up.

Like a writer mentioning that granite headstones, for example, will easily fall apart due to 'ordinary erosion.' Say what? Granite is practically eternal and unless it cracks and water gets into it, it will last far longer than limestone, marble or slate. (These last three materials were often used in cemeteries (US) in the 1600's - 1700's, hence why they are often so worn down, cracked or broken the inscriptions are sometimes unreadable.)

I do a lot of cemetery research.

Anyhow, to make your writing authentic: read widely in your topic, go to primary sources for information when and where possible, and experience what you can when it is practical and safe to do so.

quicklime
10-12-2012, 05:33 PM
My most recent episode had me allowing my friend to give ME and IV because one of my main characters is an EMT and has to do that in the story. He thinks about the process in detail while doing it so I wanted to make it as realistic as possible.

.


if your friend isn't trained and you aren't either, this seems like an excellent way to write about a life-threatening staph infection.

Chris P
10-12-2012, 05:39 PM
Yeah, the more I experience the more realistically I can write about it. It really saved my bacon when I placed my novel in Nashville. I decided it was a good idea to spend a weekend there, and I came away with much more realistic scenes. I also avoided having upscale things happen in a neighborhood that turned out to be a real 'hood. ANYONE who lived there would immediately laugh when they read it.

I've not done much extreme stuff specifically for a story/novel, but when something interesting happens I immediately think of how I can use it in a story.

sprogspasser
10-12-2012, 06:55 PM
Amusing. I read threads myself. Oh wait that is what I do to procrastinate.

Jamesaritchie
10-12-2012, 11:28 PM
I

I do a lot of cemetery research.

.

I love cemeteries. We all should, I guess, since we'll eventually be spending a lot of time in one. But at the same time, I still get a serious case of the creeps when I'm in a cemetery at night. Too many horror novels and books, I guess.

rlynnsolomon
10-12-2012, 11:30 PM
My story's about music and teenagers in a band, so I actually got a little creative -- I wrote songs that the characters in my book would play!

angeliz2k
10-13-2012, 12:28 AM
Hm, I've never done anything wild and crazy for a novel--for that matter, I'm not given to "wild and crazy" for any reason. I've read a shit-ton of books, naturally, since it takes more than the average amount of research to write historical. I've visited many historical sites, from Gettysburg and Antietam to the Tower of London and Roman Verulamium.

I have considered sewing authentic costumes. I love creative ventures of every kind, I like the aesthetic of 18th and 19th century dress, and it would be exceptionally informative.

jaksen
10-13-2012, 05:56 PM
I love cemeteries. We all should, I guess, since we'll eventually be spending a lot of time in one. But at the same time, I still get a serious case of the creeps when I'm in a cemetery at night. Too many horror novels and books, I guess.

I was in a cemetery late one night, observing the constellations and whatever planets were visible, using a star chart. This was research for the next day's lesson on planets, etc. (I am a retired science teacher.) This particular cemetery, across from my house, is virtually treeless, very open, next to a field, perfect place to view the stars.

Suddenly I am hearing voices shout: 'Stay right where you are!' I turn and am surrounded by five police officers - two on one side, two on another, a fifth at the back. No weapons were drawn, but they were angry and meant business.

Seems my neighbor had reported 'someone' in the cemetery in the dark, possibly a vandal. When the police realized it was harmless me with my star charts spread over an old marble monument, they left - except for one who stayed to learn about the stars. Yes, I gave a quick, informal astronomy lesson to one of the local cops.

But I learned how it feels to be surrounded by angry cops - there's a lot of panic, a sense of confusion and finally, a feeling of 'what a fool am I.'

Real experience ftw.

Jamesaritchie
10-13-2012, 07:21 PM
I was in a cemetery late one night, observing the constellations and whatever planets were visible, using a star chart. This was research for the next day's lesson on planets, etc. (I am a retired science teacher.) This particular cemetery, across from my house, is virtually treeless, very open, next to a field, perfect place to view the stars.

Suddenly I am hearing voices shout: 'Stay right where you are!' I turn and am surrounded by five police officers - two on one side, two on another, a fifth at the back. No weapons were drawn, but they were angry and meant business.

Seems my neighbor had reported 'someone' in the cemetery in the dark, possibly a vandal. When the police realized it was harmless me with my star charts spread over an old marble monument, they left - except for one who stayed to learn about the stars. Yes, I gave a quick, informal astronomy lesson to one of the local cops.

But I learned how it feels to be surrounded by angry cops - there's a lot of panic, a sense of confusion and finally, a feeling of 'what a fool am I.'

Real experience ftw.

Under those circumstances, I think I would have been greatly relieved to learn those voices came from police officers.

Back when I was teenager, I live about two miles from a small cemetery, one that had belonged to a family. It contained only twenty or so graves, the most recent dating back to the Civil War.

It was out in the middle of nowhere, but between where we lived and a place where we camped, and one night well after dark we were riding from the campsite to get some things we forgot to bring along. We stopped at the small cemetery to rest and look around.

It was dark, but the moon was full and bright, and we walked about, feeling well creeped out. I walked over to the grave of a soldier who was killed in the war. I didn't see the groundhog den in the grave until I stepped in it. I sank almost to my knee, and right at that moment a stray dog howled not twenty feet away.

At the moment, I did not realize I'd stepped in a groundhog den, or that the howling came from a dog. I knew only that I was knee deep in a grave, and that something didn't seem to like it.

I think I howled louder than the dog. I doubt anyone has ever left a cemetery quite that fast, or rode a bike away from a cemetery quite that hard.

I summoned enough courage to go back the next day, and figured out what had happened, but I'm still just a wee bit on edge when walking around in cemeteries after dark.