Know What You Write & Write What You Know
edited: Saturday, February 17, 2007
By Terry Spear
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, February 17, 2007
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Writing and researching short stories and novels.
My father, who wrote for and edited Air Force newspapers, always advised me to write what I know. But I’d add to that advice, know what you write. Even if I write what I know, there’s bound to be information I have to research. A little investigation can add rich factual details that’ll improve the writing. Research can aid you to ensure you know what you write, even if you already write what you know.
“Ghostly Liaisons” is a young adult paranormal romantic suspense novel, set near a Florida jungle-like swamp that I explored as a teen and knew intimately the smell, sounds, and visuals of the swamps. Even so, all I could remember were the reeds, pine trees and palm trees growing there, but had no idea the names of the plants. I wanted authenticity, so I researched the kinds of grasses and trees that grew in the region.
I often use a setting I’ve lived in to create the backdrop of my story, from a romantic suspense set in Galveston Island during a tropical storm to Fort Meade, Maryland during a blizzard. I lived through these experiences. I can visualize them in my mind. It’s an easy way out for me to develop a story without having to do a lot of research, or visit the area in person. I write what I know in these instances, because they’re as familiar to me as my own face is in the mirror. Living in the area allows me to know the nuances I couldn’t get from an Internet search. But even so, I research the areas for tidbits of information, such as the reason why Galveston wasn’t flooded when Houston was. All I knew was we remained safe, but I didn’t know why.
For “Ghostly Liaisons,” I researched where pirates had visited the Florida coastline, and found “true ” stories of ghost sightings. These were incorporated in the book. In my current release, “Winning the Highlander’s Heart,” I had to do a lot of research to ensure the story was as accurate as I could make it since I don’t live in Scotland! But I did a lot of primary research to add details that were about people quoted in King Henry I’s time period. It makes it more authentic and lots more fun to read. Whenever I read a fictionalized story, the first thing I want to know is, did this really happen?
So, if you can, make it easy on yourself and write what you know! But if you want to write stories that need research, be sure to know what you write!