P.W. Creighton

It's The Unanswered Questions That Haunt Us...

Intriguing Observations ~ Research Shaping Fiction

The Intriguing Observations series was created to gather some of the greatest supporters and bloggers to provide their own insight on all things creative both in their ventures and their techniques. This week on the guest series is another all-star supporter, and YA author represented by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary Agency,Julie Musil (@juliemusil)

Thanks so much for letting me hang out on your blog today!

One of my favorite writing topics is how research shapes our fiction. Sure, reading great novels helps us absorb pacing, language, character sketches, and more. But many writers don't yet know how much nonfiction can beef up our writing muscles.

Research is a fun part of the writing process. Once I know my characters, setting, and major plot points, I spend a good deal amount of time doing research. If my character has certain personal issues I'm unfamiliar with, I'll search for applicable websites or blogs. If my setting is new to me, I'll search Google Maps, town council websites, and collect images. If my story involves fire or police procedures, I'll interview a cop or firefighter.

How does all this research improve our fiction?

When we study a subject, we become more familiar with a character's motivations

Whether it's a medical condition, a personality affliction, or an unusual phobia, when we learn more about this subject, we learn what would be our character's greatest fear. And of course, we'd use that fear to our advantage.

Research helps formulate our villain's motives

When we learn about our main character's issues, we also become familiar with who or what could work most effectively to thwart our protagonist. We then have a better idea of how we can create epic match-ups in our fiction.

Familiarity with the language

One of my stories centered around arson, and reading Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh was a great way to figure out what made an arsonist tick. That was great. But it also helped me become familiar with the language surrounding arson. Point of origin, fuel, and ignition are words associated with this subject, and I learned all about it by reading nonfiction. When we steep ourselves in the language of our subject, it comes through naturally in our fiction.

Research invites new ideas

If our main character is suffering from cancer, or their friend is a cutter, when we research these subjects, we gain deeper understanding of that world. And that deeper understanding helps us think of alternate ideas for plot points or twists.

I wrote more about my love of research and how nonfiction has helped my fiction in these three posts: 

8 Tips for Slicing Through the Research Jungle

Tips for Word Thieves

Fueling Fiction with Nonfiction

Do you love doing research for your writing projects? Have you noticed how it helps strengthen your fiction? Do you have research tips you'd like to share with us?

Julie Musil is a YA author represented by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary Agency. She's wife to her high school honey, and the mother of three amazing sons. When she's not shuttling her boys here, there, and everywhere, she's either tapping away on her keyboard, researching for nonfiction, or keeping up with writing tips and markets.

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