Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Weaving Fact Into Fiction

Writing fiction is fascinating, especially if it is done right. But how can you make it right? How can you convince the reader to go beyond the first chapter? Fiction is mostly about using your rich imagination to create the scenery, the characters, and the story. But it can become something even greater if you conduct a bit of research related to your topic. You should include real facts regarding your primary topic in your book. Why? Because a reader will find it easier to slip into the “reality” you present in the book. Of course, you don’t have to make your manuscript read like documentary. A few well-sprinkled facts, here and there, go a long way to keeping the reader hooked to your story.

When you start with a new project, don’t bother with the title and the names of the chapters, or how many chapters you will have in the end. The first, and most important, is to set the main topic. And then the scene. The main characters’ knowledge base. Remember, you don’t have to just research places, events, and procedural facts. Behavioral research can help you create believably flawed characters with complex motivations. All these aspects and more can benefit from a bit of research. Search legitimate sources and note anything you think it will do you good.

Image by Maria Noordegraaf, Flickr
While some authors skimp over the research aspect of writing, others can go overboard.   Don’t feel like you need to – or should! – use all the information you garner, however. Fragments that can be successfully inserted in the story will be more useful. It will give the story that real touch, that feeling that it is anchored, even for some limited moments, in real life. Instead of dumping all your research into clumpy paragraphs, grab a hold of these notes as you will need them. Sometimes it might be easier – or more important – to get the details right as you write the scene, but other times you can concentrate on capturing your ideas and letting the words flow, then adding those realistic tidbits on your second go-around.               

Revising is a critical part of writing, but be careful not to smother your story with too many details. Details are good for creating the right scenario and giving the correct information about the things going in the story. But only in portions. Too much information hampers both tension and the forward movement of the plot and will make the reader fall asleep while reading your book. So, do give your reader the details that help color your scene or the action – that help complete the picture – but don’t make the mistake of writing like the facts are the picture, because they never are in novels. People read fiction for the story not to find out in three whole pages how the chamber of the library was looking like, or something similar. Your primary task is to make the story catchy, and give details only to complete the experience.

Image by Gin P.H. (Gambargin)
So, what to include? Good research can help you decide the best details. But don’t forget to put yourself in your characters shoes. What would they notice? Care about? What would affect their actions or moods?  The answer is going to be different for every character, and in fact, the details that you choose to convey can not only help to create a more realistic setting and procedures, but also flesh out your character as a distinct entity. And all that helps create those series of moments that make the real world fade away for the reader while the pages keep turning, and that, of course, is your ultimate goal.  

This week's post was written by Raluca Baban with Ella Kennen.

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