Thursday, June 25, 2015

Eyes Open! Stay Awake!

by Alan

No boredom Sometimes you become so interested in the research for your book that it takes over the story. What do you do to keep it from becoming a treatise that only serves to make your readers’ eyes close with boredom?

Some people, old roommates mostly, call me lazy. I prefer the term efficient. I don’t like waste, be it energy, food, money, brainpower, or time (especially food).

I know a lot of writers enjoy spelunking in the proverbial stacks, unearthing long-forgotten historical tomes. Their jaws drop in wonder at a newly-discovered journal from the 1300’s or a never-before-seen map of the ancient Roman empire.

I’m not one of them. I strive to do exactly as much research as necessary and not one iota more. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of including too much research in any of my books or stories. Ever. Really, EVER.

Readers don’t need to know how the sausage is made. They just need to know that one of my characters has stopped at a street vendor to get a delicious brat on a bun.

Don’t get me wrong, I work hard to make sure that what I write is as accurate as possible and, in order to do that, research must be conducted. It’s just not my favorite thing. That’s why I rarely worry about bombarding my readers with all kinds of arcane knowledge. I try to give them just what they need to understand whatever is going on in my book.

I operate on a simple plan: if it serves the story, it goes in.

If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.


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Barb Goffman said...

Though sometimes doing a little research about things like ... I don't know ... modern word usage, perhaps, can be a good thing.

Meredith Cole said...

I like your philosophy, Alan! "I operate on a simple plan: if it serves the story, it goes in. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t."

Alan Orloff said...

Barb - I wasn't trying to use that slang!! Meredith - I like to keep things simple. I'm a simple man, after all.

Susan C Shea said...

Lee Child was interviewed recently and said he does no research specific to the book before or during the writing. He knows enough from his general reading to tell the story and then he checks after for specifics. I do the same because I fear that knowing the precise truth will inhibit me, make me censor myself. After, I do what I can to create verisimilitude!

Alan Orloff said...

Susan - If it's good enough for Lee Child (and for Susan Shea)... I just need to remember to check for specifics BEFORE the book gets published. (I love that word -- verisimilitude!)

Susan C Shea said...

It's a word that could be taken for "truthiness," I suppose!