April 1, 2020– It may be April Fool’s Day, but this post about research is not a joke. I started writing my new thriller titled, My name is Jessica Westlake, around a year and a half ago. It’s in the final stages of completion, and it was a hard book to write because a lot of the content was about things that I’ve never had to deal with personally. A lot of writing advice says, write what you know, and I think that’s the easy way out. To be a good writer, we must spend a ton of time researching different topics, events, and people. Credibility in our writing is essential because as soon as the reader doesn’t believe what you’re saying, you can kiss them goodbye. This is especially true for crime scene buffs, books with a medical or legal slant, and locations if they exist in real life.
So, how do you protect the integrity of your own work when writing fiction? Here are three tips:
1) Talk to the experts. I enlisted the help of the head of homicide at the TPD to help me with my book Obsessed with Her because it had a major crime scene in it, and I needed to be accurate. If I had just thrown together something that I thought was correct or close enough, my seasoned crime readers would have thrown my book across the room and would have never read another thing I’ve written. With my new novel, I joined a grief counselling group online and read the comments, I visited funeral homes and asked about the process from beginning to end, and I spoke with a police department detective in my city. It’s imperative to be precise when writing so that your readers can take you seriously.
2) Consider the source. The internet is an excellent reference for information, but be careful to consider the source. Along with facts and figures, there can be a lot of fiction. Be sure to get your information from reliable sources such as Google Maps (which updates frequently), City of (insert your city here), and police department websites.
3) Get to the library. Books are a wonderful resource, especially when it comes to writing historical fiction! Plus, the more you read in other genres, the stronger writer you become. When looking for books to research your own, be sure to find as many as you can in your specific interest so that your research will be well rounded. For example, if your main character is a reiki healer with a magic touch, and you’ve never had a session in your life, grab a book or five on the subject. Learn as much as you can because your readers will thank you for it!
Research, research, research and remember to acknowledge those who have helped your book along the way with their expertise. X LLB