Friday, June 3, 2011

Research, The Joy and The Pain Part Four

Incorporating the Research into Your Story
Ah, now comes the moment of truth. How to cram all this hard won knowledge into your manuscript. In truth, as I mentioned in my last post, it is NOT all going to get into your story.
At this point, depending on whether you are a plotter or pantser, you begin to craft the framework of your action. A plotter will make another plot line, consult the vast ocean of amassed research and choose the juicy bits and pieces which will lift the story out of mediocrity and into a full and rich reading experience. The pantser will start writing and weave the information crammed into their skull into the weft and woof of their tale. Of course, even the most accomplished pantser will need to check the notes to be sure they have the facts correct.
It is so very tempting to stuff every bit of hard won information into the manuscript somewhere. Do not fall into this trap. The result will be a piece of dry, uninteresting writing which will put your reader to sleep. Not exactly the goal of an author to be sure.
Carefully select the tidbits which will help to move your plot forward and present them in a manner appropriate to your character’s age and experience. Use words and phrases which suit the protagonist’s gender and background.
Be wary of paraphrasing your research, if you have done a sufficient job you will understand the subject fully and be able to express it as your hero or heroine would. The words should roll naturally off their tongues without sounding stilted or as if they were reciting something learned by rote, but which they really have no understanding of.
Always, always be sure your facts are correct and events are portrayed realistically. Do not give in to a whim and twist actual documented events to suit the purpose of your plot. Part of the craft of writing is finding ways to get your story where you want it to go without riding roughshod over the facts.
For me, this is the best part of the process. I get to play with my characters and their storyline, often a bit of research will jump out at me and I just have to use it. Now, the fun begins…
It is extremely important to allow your writing to mellow and age. Once you have finished a story, or a chapter(s) depending on the length of your work in progress, put it away for a week or so. Work on other things and then go back and read your previous work with fresh eyes. You will be amazed at what you find, places where you may need to cut things out to speed up the flow of the story where it is bogged down with fact; places where you need to flesh things out more. Back you go to your research files. Do this more than once and keep an open mind.
Finally, have someone else read what you have written. See if it makes sense to them, have you glossed over something which needs more information; have you bored them to tears explaining how a particle accelerator works when a brief couple of sentences would suffice?
I love this part of crafting the story. Call me crazy, I know.
Part Five of this workshop deals with organizing your data and sources. It will post at 5:00 PM See you then.


Anita Davison said...

You aren't crazy, I love that part too, although it's so hard not to include all those details you find so fascinating. I have just read a Regency novel by a multi-published author who used 'Okay' -three times!

BarbaraB said...

Nancy, this is good information. I've done lots of research for my WIP and I've loved every minute of it. The story takes place in ancient Rome and I have learned much about that period and those people.
I guess I'm a pantster, although I knew where I was going. I think the outline was in my head, just not down on paper.

Sara Durham Writer ~ Author said...

I like your term: letting the manuscript mellow with age:) So true, even after you've been over the thing six or seven times, I've come back and seen something I had to change, or thought what were you thinking? Oh and then your editor gets ahold of it...:):):)

Great job today Nancy, looking forward to post 5!


Cellophane Queen said...

"Do not give in to a whim and twist actual documented events to suit the purpose of your plot."

Unless you're writing alternate history and/or fantasy, of course.

Anonymous said...

Nancy - I'm appreciating all of your research parts - they all resonate. You are packed full of excellent research wisdom. Looking forward to Part five.

I'm following along but being quiet.

Lisa Forget said...

Again, another post chocked full of good advice. I agree that it's best to let the story sit for a while. When we go back to it, things that need tweaking are easier to see.
Thank you!

Nancy Bell said...

LOL Marva, fantasy and alternate history are exceptions, but you would be surprised at the comments sometimes from readers who don't buy into a story line. I think it is all in the crafting of alternate world and your success at it which allows a greater freedom to play with the facts.

Thanks everyone for commmenting, I am thrilled so many of you have dropped in. I have enjoyed reading all your thoughts on researching.


Wendy said...

I'm enjoying your posts and am nodding my head. I like to begin research at the point where I want to know something specific that my plot needs, I can spend days wrapped up in the topic happy to be learning something new. But I only use the info I was searching for. That way I'm not tempted with an 'info dump'. However, some morsel that I found fascinating could slip into the dialogue in a future chapter. hehehe.
Thank you Nancy. It's lovely to be able to talk 'writing' and 'researching' with you and your guests.