Monday, April 10, 2017

How Much Research is too much?


Unless you're only researching and not writing, or your fiction novel reads like a text book.

Research is the way to make a story or book come alive, take shape, and educate while entertaining your audience. At least that's the way I feel about research. I think there is never too much you can research about anything you write about. Spirit of the Mountain the first book of my Spirit Trilogy is set in the 1700's among a band of the Nez Perce tribe. I researched their way of life, found Nez Perce who were willing to help me make the story correct, learned about shape shifting for the paranormal element, and studied the myth and legends of the Nez Perce. By researching and gleaning all the information I could it helped me write a fictional story that read an authentic happening at that time. 
Paiute bark water containers

For my historical westerns I enjoy visiting the area, going through the historical museums, and getting my hands on books, articles, and newspapers written at the time or near the time of my story. 

Now you say, all well and good, that was a historical story.

I put as much time into research into my contemporary action Adventure trilogy, Isabella Mumphrey
Adventures, to make the books ring true as I do the historical westerns. The first book, Secrets of a Mayan Moon is set in the Guatemalan jungle. The second book, Secrets of an Aztec Temple is set in Mexico City and the third book, Secrets of a Hopi Blue Star is set in Arizona and dealt with the Hopi tribe. For all of these books, I had to read maps, go to online sites about the government, read newspaper articles about what is happening in the areas to help make the setting come across as if my characters were there and to
make the differences of culture ring true.I made a contact with a blogger in Guatemala to help make the story as authentic as possible. I read newspapers and articles about the drug problems in Mexico City to make my story be believable. Knowing Guatemala and Mexico City were Spanish speaking countries, I could have just used Spanish words here and there, but I learned all Central and South American countries have their own slang.Because of this, I contacted local people to help make sure I used the correct words for the location. 

I could have just written the first book with Spanish language using online sites as my research, but then the story wouldn't have been accurate. As my contact in Guatemala said, "I appreciate the fact you are going to great lengths to show the real Guatemala. Many books I read, the writer doesn’t have a clue what we are about and they lose me as a reader." So while the larger populace may not have a care about the difference in the language, or the fact the rain forest has been getting smaller and smaller due to fires, those people from or who live in the countries will know I have taken the extra care to get it right.

Great research resources are your local, state, and university libraries; historical museums or societies; in the case of other countries, their government websites; or googling a certain area. For maps I like Google Earth and Mapquest. And always try to find at least two sources with the same information. Especially if you're using online information. And if you can find a person in a particular field you are using or living in a country you are writing about, it makes the story come to life with tidbits that only someone in that field or that country would know.  

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