Sunday, June 10

Research: Inspiring and Intimidating

This last week I attended the Teen Author Carnival where I sat in on a panel of twelve young adult authors, titled 'Is this Real Life? Or Is This Just Fantasy?' I assumed plentiful discussion of magical and invented topics but instead one was brought up that pulled in my attention - that of research.

While some might think that authors don't put in much research to a book (especially if anyone utters the word "fantasy," although plenty of these authors were not in fact writing of that genre) it is astounding just to what lengths some authors go to guarantee that their novel holds plausibility and isn't easily dismissed by the reader. Sure, there is that notion of "suspend you disbelief" but there is also that of how the best of lies have something of a truth to them...and fiction is the fabrication of truths.

In the panel, there was discussion of hush-hush interviewees who shall not be named, extensive research to the point of obsession and the extra dimension a story can gain by building on some real fact, whether a physical or an emotional aspect.

Hannah Moskowitz spoke of setting 'Gone, Gone, Gone' in her hometown, a 9/11 novel she had meant to write for a long time. Barry Lyga, author of 'I Hunt Killers' mentioned how much research he had done on serial killers, only for a fraction of it to go directly into his manuscript. Eliot Schrefer wrote the first draft of 'Endangered' in New York City, before visiting a sanctuary for Bonobos.

Plausibility is an intimidating but important thing. It was fascinating how much these authors had done in the aide of bringing their novels to life. Such extensive research was, to me, was overwhelming but also inspiring. While I wouldn't want to freak out over plausibility before I'd started writing, I'd want to do my best to make a story as real to the reader as possible, while still giving it the leeway of a work of fiction.

Research isn't easy and sometimes it can leave a bad taste in your mouth but I know that the writing I have done which had stemmed from something real - such as writing on location - has felt all the more tangible and exciting to me. Surely that must translate to the reader.

So, I've been inspired to delve more into research and come up with inventive ways to give my stories depth. Who knows what may come of it. Something good, I hope.

What has your writing gained through research? Are their any particular novels you have reach which struck you as having en particularly striking in their incorporation of real places, people or events?

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