Gale Sears came and spoke to our chapter on “The Research Journey”. Her presentation was in a word . . . inspiring.
We learned many things and those that weren’t there missed out on probably the best presentation on Research I’ve ever heard. Here are a couple of highlights:
1) The author that “wings it” or “fudges” takes their readership for granted. Gale stressed that readers need to feel transported to the locations and places we write about. Research is the tool that makes the setting, characters and other things believable. As much as people might not enjoy it, research is something no author can neglect, especially when you write Historical Fiction, but every book is much better when there is good research behind it.
What was so amazing is that we saw locations in Europe, Russia, China and so forth that Gale and her supportive husband have been. Moments of emotional history from a Russian museum or where she sat by a WWI trench. Gale mentioned that researching these places prior to going there made the experience of actually being there so much better. Paraphrasing: “It’s not enough to go there, but to know why you are going there and what you hope to get from it and the all important factor of being open.” One’s mind can go back in time and magnify the depth of the story or take it in a powerful new direction never realized before. Gale said it’s all for not as a writer if there is nothing to write down or capture the flood of inspiration that comes.
1a) When possible, go to where you’re writing about. If money is an issue, write about the areas around you. There are many stories around that haven’t been told but could be in your area.
2) Get what matters right and if you can’t find an answer after due diligence ask for help from a friend, an expert, pray/meditate, etc. In the end, however, realize it is still just fiction and some things can be changed on purpose, but know why you’re changing them. It’s not saying that the setting isn’t key, the time period, customs, attire, language, etc. . . . these things all do matter. But there comes a point where research can become an excuse for not writing. For example: This is when things like a handle on a pot–its color–matter more than driving the story forward or writing it. If it’s not critical to character, plot, or setting move on . . . it is still just fiction anyway.
I wish I could share 1/16 of what she went over, but that’s not possible. Thanks Gale for coming to speak to our group! We wish you all the best.