How to Research Absolutely AnythingWritten by Stephanie Cage
Have you ever thought about writing non-fiction but been put off by amount of research involved? Writing about what you know helps, as you’re likely to have information you need at your fingertips, or at least know where to find it, but if you’re anything like me, you will still need to check up on a detail every so often.
The truth is, research is hard to avoid. Even as a fiction writer, you will still need to check facts once in a while. It might be a historical detail (would your hero have been wearing a top hat or bowler?), a fact about a place or person, or even lyrics of your heroine’s favourite song.
Sometimes you can avoid problem by being vague. Instead of naming song, say, ‘He was humming that annoying tune again.’ If you don’t know exactly how big boat was, say, ‘It was about length of a swimming pool’. However, do this too often, and you lose sense of reality, of a scene coming alive, that comes from a precisely imagined and described story world.
So how do you go about finding information you need to fill gaps in your story or article? As a researcher, there are five main sources of information I turn to, roughly in this order:
1 – Home reference books. Looking things up at home is quick and convenient, and a good encyclopaedia can fill in background information on a huge range of topics. However, it may not contain specific information you’re looking for, and sometimes even if it contains answer, it may be hard to find. For example, if you know want to find out more about Ellen MacArthur, it’s great, but it’s not much help if you can’t remember surname of ‘that woman who sailed around world – Ellen someone.’
2 – The Internet The Internet is a great starting point if you can’t remember exact details of what you’re looking for. Type ‘Ellen’ and ‘around world sailing’ into Google and odds are that sooner or later name ‘MacArthur’ will crop up. It can be useful for tracking down poetry and song lyrics too, because it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember title or first line – if it’s on Internet, then typing any line into a search engine will help you track it down.
3 - Libraries If you can’t find what you need at home, in most cases next stop will be your local library. They will have a wider range of reference books, as well as other subject-related books. For example, if you need to add colour to your novel about a woman sailor, you could look out for interesting details in a biography of Ellen MacArthur. If you’re really new to a subject, start from scratch with a child’s reference book. They’re often surprisingly informative as well as having lots of helpful illustrations. If your local library fails, you may have to resort to a larger library further afield – main copyright libraries have every book you could wish for, although it’s worth calling in advance to check that book you’re looking for is immediately available.
Awesome EndingsWritten by Lea Schizas
Bungee jumping, sky diving, secret mission, Indy 500: how do these events compare to art of fiction writing? Each one brings to its ‘doer’ an element of anticipation, exhilaration, unfamiliarity, and adventure. A pure adrenaline rush. And as a writer of fiction, this is plateau you want your reader to experience.
Straying from anticipated ending to a twist makes for good reading, pleasing editor, and upping your chance of getting accepted. But be wary. Your twist should conform along lines of story you have crafted thus far. Not an easy task to accomplish, but plausible.
For example: fifteen-year-old John stole answers to his exam from his teacher’s desk. Throughout storyline, John has been portrayed as a ‘bully’ but every so often writer has offered either flashbacks or little inconspicuous hints into John’s childhood. The reader assumes that John will either get away with it, or get caught and suspended. The author has gripped reader into continuing book to see where this will end up. Here comes twist.
Because of these rare flashback insights, we’ve seen another side to John that, although subtle, it’s still there. So when John ends up placing answers back with no one being wiser, reader is stunned, surprised, but content with this twist ending because it has been subliminally build into plot.
If writer’s portrayal of John had been exclusively ‘bullish’, mean-spirited, unfriendly throughout then reader’s reaction would have been stunned, surprised and obviously, left cheated with an ending that holds no basis with rest of storyline.
This is called character reversal, when character reacts different than what reader expected. And to pull it off, you must have planted subtle seeds along way.