Writing 101: Research That Novel
How do you start writing a novel?
The first thing I do is decide on the genre and setting.
I guess you saw some version of Return to the future. Here the scenery changes not because of the location, but because of the period of time. Going back or forward changes the appearance of the same location. The setting is new, right?
The genre is the type of novel you are writing. It could be a western, action, romance, detective, mystery, gothic, or whatever you decide to dream up.
Science fiction would be another genre.
Did you notice a possible change in gender in a version of Return to the future? The skateboard boy transformed into an armed Westerner. Well, he was still science fiction.
The stage is where the action takes place. If the action is in the present, you won’t have to do much research on the time period of the action. However, if the action takes place in 1850 or 130 B.C. C., you must investigate that period of time as was done in Return to the future.
Once you have decided where the action will take place and in what period of time, you can define your characters. Here are some things to consider:
Does each character’s name fit the location and time period?
Don’t call your raider Viking, Joseph.
try crazy eric or something like that.
What would be the language of your character?
If you lived in 1750 London, what phrases would you use?
How would it sound?
That will depend on your class, right?
A London cobbler wouldn’t sound like the Captain of the King’s Guard, would he?
What about the King himself?
How would it sound? What vocabulary would you use?
Here’s a warning:
Don’t write a period novel if you’re not willing to get the education and knowledge you’ll need to write it.
The key to writing well is writing about things you know and understand.
Of course, if you’re writing science fiction, you can do whatever you want as long as it “sounds real” to science fiction readers.
That’s why the advice often given to writers is to read a lot in the genre they intend to write in.
That’s one way to get an education, isn’t it?
If you met a man at Walgreen in a skin-tight silver jumpsuit with an antenna sticking out of a gold helmet, you’d think: That guy is not from here!
If your character walks into a bar in the Wild West in 1850 wearing a green suit, you’ll have some explaining to do. I assume he is Irish and will order a Guinness. Note: Guinness started in 1759, but I doubt you’ll find it in the Wild West in 1850.
Dress should be consistent just as language is important. You need to know the local dress, not a stereotypical dress that you saw in a “B” movie.
Clothing is also characteristic of vocation and class. A banker, a blacksmith, a mill builder, etc., would be dressed differently in the same place during the same period of time.
Early Texas settlers in Arizona could be distinguished by their hats.
If your character is a nurse, you should know something about how a nurse performed in her location and during her time period.
Don’t let that soldier shoot someone with a Winchester during the War of 1812. Oliver Winchester was born in 1810.
Every character needs a story. A person’s history determines, at least in part, their actions. You may never mention such a story in your novel, but you must know about it.
Every character needs characteristics. You may never mention most of them, but you must know about them. These are the things that in combination make your character different from all other characters in the world. Take Superman, for example, or Henry VIII.
The bottom line is that all things must be consistent and logical if you want your novel to fly.
If something is strange, you have some explaining to do.
How to do research
The easiest way to research is to read in your genre.
I don’t like to read most novels. Therefore, I inquire about time and place.
I like to start with a map of the area. So I like to read the history of the area even before the given time period. I read history books, old magazine articles, internet articles, etc. I like to tour the area and visit museums and historical societies. I like talking to people, especially veterans who have important stories to tell.
Go to bookstores, garage sales, book sales, junk shops, antique stores, and other places where you can buy magazines and books for a song. Look at the things they sell at antique stores and ask about the history of unusual items. The way to do it is to say this: What is that thing?
In a way, it’s a lot like being a newspaper reporter. I like to look through old newspapers for interesting stories to see what other “reporters” have done.
Look in old encyclopedias, catalogs and almanacs. You will be surprised what you can learn.
when i was writing Revenge on the Mogollon Rim, I decided to read one of Zane Grey’s novels, the setting of which was in the areas near my home in Arizona.
I knew something about Zane Gray because he was a guide and worked on exhibits for the local museum.
He was hoping to help rebuild his cabin that was destroyed in the Dude Fire. However, I moved out of the area (Payson, AZ) before that task began.
Anyway, I was reading your novel and a sentence occurred to me that didn’t seem right to me. It was a character view of her as seen from the Mogollon Rim. I didn’t think she was right. I drove to the Rim and parked very close to the place she described. Then I saw that Zane Gray had described the sight perfectly. Mountains don’t move that fast.
It’s a good idea to know the theme, setting (setting), and characters before you start writing your novel. Well, don’t let that stop you. You can fill in the blanks later.
Just don’t let a bold character take over your book.
Writing, how to write, setting, characters, language, features, story, time period, research