Wednesday Classroom: Do your research to gain trust with your reader, yawwwwl

Morning Y’allses! Guess where I am while you are reading this? In Oregon! Lawdy but I’m far away from my little log house. GMR and the dawgs and the ghost dawg have the house and cove all to themselves and I bet they miss my pea-headed s’ef.  So, for this post, I’m a’trying to post ahead of time. Just think, as I’m typing this I’m in the little log house, but as you read it, I’m in Oregon. Wheeee ain’t technology grand?

Folkses, as you all may be able to tell from reading my posts on writing, I can be strict about some thangs. I try to have things Right. I want to convince my audience, and you should, too!

With fiction, bring in truths to ground the reader—and whatever those truths are will be  up to the writer to convey them. The amount of danged old research we do will have much to do with the place/time we create. My worlds have been and are in South Louisiana, West Virginia, and here in these western North Carolina mountains. My time has been from the 50’s to the present. My research will deal with that time and place.

If I’m writing about a real town, I need to be accurate about that town to honor its people and sense of Place–I wouldn’t have New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana–lawd!–because it is Baton Rouge; I wouldn’t have Maggie Valley with a McDonald’s because we do not have fast food joints in Maggie (except for one lonely Subway, and who knows how it managed to find its way here). If I’m writing about a fictional town based on a real town, I have a little more flexibility, but I still need to be mindful. Most of my books do not mention specific towns, but my readers can often guess where I am talking about, or place my characters in a specific area that they can relate to.

If you’ses have yourse’f a world that’s all made up, like “Madeupland,” you still must ground the reader in some reality, yawwwl, right? riigghhht! So there will be some research even if it’s minor. Mainly, if you have a “Madeupland” you best be consistent–I tell you what!

All you’ses wunnerfuls out there have seen me write this before: Convince your audience and you’ve done your job, no matter how, what, where, when, who you write. Throw all the danged ole rules out the window for all I care—just convince me, or you lose me as your reader.

Sometimes you may think you have something correct, but you do not! oopsies! It doesn’t hurt to double-check those things you “remember” or “think you know.” I had Tang in a Tender Graces scene–later, it began to bug me, when was Tang invented? I looked it up and Lawd!, it wasn’t released to the general public until sometime after my scene–the astronauts had it first.

Whenever I mentioned a movie or a television show or a football game, I made sure I had it Right. Folkses, you don’t EVEN want to go messing with South Louisiana and have their LSU Tigers game days, or anything else, wrong–lawd! I can’t have my South Louisiana town’s team playing  Old Miss in September when they didn’t play until later in the season, or have them playing in town when it was an out of town game. I can’t have the movie Rocky coming out in March of 1976 (in Secret Graces), because it didn’t release until December 1976. Look It Up and double check–our memories are wankity.

You can play around with research to enhance your books. Was there a significant weather event that would change something with my characters or their Place? Or make something fun/interesting? (Like the South Louisiana Hurricane mention in TG when Mee Maw comes to visit—category five Grandmother.) Or, if in the holler in West Virginia there was a bad snow storm, Katie Ivene wouldn’t be flying to town in her Rambler with the windows open yelling “wheeee!” I found sites that show historical weather. I love those little details even if only I know that on April 13, 1976, it really was 82 degrees and foggy in a town in South Louisiana (I use weather more as a mood or as Place or whatever, not that I go around quoting weather).

Little details help the reader to “Be There” with the character, to ground them in a place or time or mood, maybe even to have them say, “I know that place/event/area!” “Hey, I remember that!”

Don’t rely on only one source. I do the best I can to make sure I have everything as accurate as possible—because you are worth my time and care, you being the reader. Often, I double and triple check my sources.

Will someone find an error if they go through my books with a fine-toothed eye? I don’t know, but it won’t be for lack of me working hard and doing my job best I can. I don’t respect lazy writing and I know it when I read it.

When and how you do your research is up to you. Do what works.

Don’t cheat. Don’t be lazy. It’s worth it to build trust with your readers. Do you want your reader to stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute! This ain’t right . . .” and bump them from your world, your story? Naw! And more important to me: I want my reader to trust me and to forget about me and only focus on the narrator and the story.

Do you make sure you have things Right and build trust? Does your work require extensive research, or just a bit?

See all y’allses wunnerfuls later!

Don’t forget: I changed my blog posting schedule for my Classroom series & I am your Personal Trainer series, etc, to the first and third Wednesdays of the month, with Friday open to photos/art/video: no words. So there will only be posts twice a month, and on most Fridays, photos/video/art with no words.

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10 thoughts on “Wednesday Classroom: Do your research to gain trust with your reader, yawwwwl

  1. I try to write about places I know well or have researched deeply. And yes, a mistake or oversight like the ones you talk about can ruin a book for me. I was recently reading a sword/sorcery book, set in the 1400s – I was deep into the scene, the language, the clothing of the characters – and then one of the characters used a modern-day colloquialism. It was very jarring. And I thought, “He wouldn’t say that!”

  2. You know I tried my hand at writing fiction but realized very soon that there would be a lot of research and guess what, I’m a very, very lazy person. Too much work for me. Hate to say it but it is the truth. So the only thing I write about is ME…that doesn’t take too much research as I am intimately familiar with the subject!

  3. Having a 38+ year career as an Analyst means everything I write is as accurate as three sources per idea or instance can make it. I feel we owe that to our readers and it adds luster to what we write for our readers to be able to “feel” the story because of accuracies they also identify with. Even my historical romances are historically accurate based upon the stories my family has passed down plus the history recorded for the era and localle of what I am writing. Again, without this facet in an historical novel, a learned reader would throw down the novel and not pick up another written by me ever again……or at least that is how I would respond. The only thing imagined in my work are the conversations and names of the characters. And in my historical novels the names are accurate to history as well….since they are about my family and I have the family trees back to the 1600s, which is why I began the tales in the first place…..too interesting and important to the pioneer history of America not to share.

    I think the fact that you too insure accuracy in time as well as the personality of your characters is why I love reading you. Keep up the good work. Glad you got to share time with family…..I just wish we could all live more closely to family and everyone still be able to eke out a decent living and we’d still be able to write unimpeded by the world around us.

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