Saturday, May 2, 2009

Knowing Things

When I started to write my book, I didn't anticipate just how much research I would have to do. Every writer has the chance to become an expert in something. For me?

Ancient Mayan Civilization.

Do you have a question on this subject? I'll give you an answer. Well, at least I'll be able to answer all your questions by the time this book is written.

I thought visiting Chichen Itza five years ago would tell me all I needed to know...and maybe a few trips to Wikipedia...but now I believe I could probably minor in the subject.

What subjects have you become expert in from your writing? Fairy Mythology? Japanese customs? Gaelic culture? Icelandic legends? I want to know.

And one more thing - As fiction writers we have a certain liberty to change facts to fit our story. But how much liberty?


  1. Hmmm, for my historical I did quite a bit of research on the 1918 flu pandemic. I also learned some stuff about women in WWI that I never knew.
    So you have to research Mayan stuff? LOL I think it's time for a "business" cruise.

  2. Your last question intrigues me. How much liberty do we have? I think we have all we want, but whether it WORKS or not is what counts. Every writer has to suspend their disbelief, but if you're writing real world fiction like I do, you'd better make sure your facts are right and believable.

    I have studied CIA and terrorism. I need to do more, though, since a beta reader just told me it's not believable or strong enough in my book.

  3. Jessica-Yes, I have been reading a few books on the Mayan. A cruise to Mexico (swine flu aside) would definitely be educational, but unfortunately I have to settle for a cruise to Europe. :)

    Natalie-That is quite the list. I don't even know what Praetorians are but I know who to ask. And my grandpa fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, so I have lots of first hand accounts.

    Glam-Yes, with real world fiction it is not wise to stray too far from the facts. And with historical fiction, you have to be pretty accurate to be believable. But what about historical fantasy? It should be okay to tweak a few historical facts to make it work. And with fantasy...I think an author has pretty free rein there. I, for instance, am creating a make-believe Mayan city based on the other cities of the time, and I am creating it so that I can do whatever I want in it without worrying about being historically correct.

  4. Wow Jessie. That IS infortunate. *head to the side, gagging*


  5. Jessie - I know exactly what you mean! By the end of my last book I felt like I should have a medical degree in stem cell therapy. I know more about it than any non-specialist should know, only a fraction of which probably made it into the book. I really love that aspect of writing.

    It's hard to decide where to draw the line between fact and fiction. John Grisham once wrote that he feels very free to make up all sorts of things - places, people, events - and put them smack in the middle of real places and events. Other authors feel necessary to get even the small details right.

    I guess when I'm writing I ask myself, is this necessary to be factual? In other words, is it important that the restaurant my characters eat at is real? Is it necessary to have the hospital be a real one, and is it important to have the description and location real? Should the president in the book be a real one or a fictional one?

    I think it changes for every book, and probably for the readers as well. This, like every other aspect of writing, falls under the category of "you can't please all of the people all of the time."

  6. Can I just say, Natalie, WOW!

    Okay, I've had these same questions. I think we can change the facts as long as it makes sense and is believable. But if you try to tell me the Civil War was fought in early 1900's I might have a problem with your story (unless you have a really good explanation). On the other hand if you try to tell me the civil war was fought because of a secret plot by aliens from the future bent on destroying America (who then of course goes on to triumph anyway, as America always does) well then I say change the facts all you want. That's a good story!! :)

    I've had to do lots of research on Hungary, Caves, Ireland, Celtic legends etc. It's been fun and exhausting! But I definitely feel more educated.

  7. Candice-I really want to read the book about the civil war fought because of an alien ploy. That is very good insight. And it all boils down to-it just has to be believable.