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Young Writers Society
Grammar & Research
The Value of Research
Tue Jun 30, 2009 5:23 pm
Some people think that when it comes to writing you simply open a blank document and fill it with words. Though this may work for writers with “entities”, impulse surely isn’t the only way to write a good story.
I once came up with an idea for a novel. Using only my imagination, I came up with well thought-out plot, an intricate conflict, complex characters, and a decent sense of direction. Since I’d already thought out most of what was going to happen, writing the beginning was a breeze. And then came the mythology portion.
My story idea related to witches and the magical world, and I had no clue about how witches died or about their life span. I ended up spitting up whatever explanation I could think of. I thought I did a pretty good job making my free-form mythology believable, but the experts could still see through my act.
What’s the lesson from this? Do your research! Know the rules before you break them! There’s always a way you can tie your story in with ancient traditions, old legends, or folklore.
A friend of mine asked me for advice when it came to his setting. Half of his setting took place in Alaska and he’d never been to Alaska before. He wanted to know if Googling would do the job or if changing the setting altogether would’ve been for the best. A word of advice: Even if the only thing you know about your setting is the weather or that it’s somewhere near the equator doesn’t mean that you have to settle for google or pass it up.
Remember the resourcefulness of everyday resources! Remember technology, the machines that most people nowadays take for granted? A good amount of people have cable television these days. “And what does that have anything to do with learning more about my setting?” Well, to answer that question in but a few words: the travel channel.
If you can’t afford a ticket to the shores of Ireland or have the guts to take a Bermuda Triangle, the travel channel is your next best option. They film everywhere from the Amazon Rainforest in South America to the snow-covered villages near Mt. Everest. Not only do you get to explore the wonders of foreign land in the comfort of your own living room (where you’ll hopefully have your notepad and pen handy), but you also get a taste of the culture, traditions, food, language, and people of the area.
Some other channels that might be helpful are: Animal Planet, Food Network, Discovery Channel, and the History Channel.
You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself into one.
The writer, when he is also an artist, is someone who admits what others don't dare reveal.
You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.
— Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
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