Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Monday, March 07, 2011

Guest: Anne Patrick on The Importance of Research

My guest blogger today is Anne Patrick and she is talking about a subject that is near-and-dear to my heart: research and getting your facts straight. How many of us have started a book only to throw it across the room when we run into a glaring error? Obviously, none of us can get everything right--there are some honest mistakes and even historians have been known to argue about what exactly happened when, and to whom--but there are basics that every diligent author should get right.

But...I digress (since this is a favorite topic of mine). Here is Anne Patrick!

Get Your Facts Straight.

How many of you remember the drudgery of researching at your local library? Thanks to the internet, things are a lot easier now. I do my research, probably like most other writers: books and the internet. However, you have to be careful where you get your information and whether or not it is indeed accurate. Your best bet is to find someone in the field you are researching and ask them to lend their expertise. Most always, you'll find a willing participant—especially if you promise to acknowledge them in your book.

Through research is one of the most important steps you'll take in the writing process. You want to take great care in making sure you've done your homework, especially if you plan on doing any book signing or book club talks. I never will forget my first book signing. After I'd done the fun part of autographing all the books, I was asked to talk to a group of about twenty people. Now that in itself is pretty terrifying to me, but when they started asking research questions my anxiety level went up a notch or two. Thankfully, I had contacted a professional in the same field I'd placed my main character and I was able to answer all their questions. I even had a little pamphlet made up (just in case anyone was to ask) that I passed around describing how my forensic artist went through her creation process.

Another example is my novel Fire and Ash. Several months of research went into it's creation, involving books and the internet. To make sure I got my facts straight I enlisted the help of a wonderful man named Keith Tarbox. He is the fire investigator I corroborated with to make sure my fire scenes were plausible and that my character was believable. His help was invaluable. Not only did he take time out of his busy schedule to answer all my questions he read the manuscript and made some suggestions that gave the book more depth. His insights and the real life experiences he shared helped me to get inside Sadie's head and really get to know her. In all honesty, this books success is due largely to his willingness to help out a nagging author.

Last case in point is my short story Dangerous Deception, which is included in a mystery/suspense anthology that was released March 1st from Victory Tales Press. My inspiration behind this story came from reading about the civil war in Sierra Leone back in the nineties. When I first came up with the idea for this story a few years ago, I contacted two different pastors living in Sierra Leone who actually witnessed many of the atrocities that took place. Since my novel is a contemporary, it takes place in a fictitious country. The events I describe, however, were inspired from the stories I was told. This brings up another point you may want to watch out for, avoid using real names and places if possible.

I hope my post was useful to you. I want to thank Amy for having me today, and for the opportunity to share a little about myself. If you'd like to learn more about me and my books, please visit my website: .

Thank you so much, Anne! I'm glad (for once) that I wasn't the one up on her hobby horse screaming that writers need to do the appropriate research for their books! I only want to add that I've noted that the best-selling authors have one huge thing in common: they always do their research, and then some.
Nobody gets everything right, but we need to all try to get most things right!
What is your opinion, readers? Do you care if authors go a little "off the tracks" when they right or do you prefer something as accurate as possible?

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