For this week’s installment of Writing Bloody, I’d like to talk about research. Going on a fact finding mission is imperative to writing a believable story. Some things you can fake, we all know that. But what you can’t fake are facts. For example, making up your own name for a specific emergency room tool–like a scalpel– will NOT work (neither will made up spelling). Can you make up scenery or make your own mad scientist formula? Sure. But still, there needs to be a balance between fact and fiction or your readers won’t believe a thing your selling.
As for the how of researching, well…all writers do their own version. Whether it’s checking out nonfiction books at the library, searching the internet, going on a trip to a specific location, or watching movies or TV, there is no one size fits all. We can also get into the whole “trusted site issue” here too, but I won’t go all librarian/teacher on you.
How do I research? Well, it depends on the type of story I’m writing. I’ll share the two WIPs I am working on and the differences between how I’m foraging through information to find the right stuff.
No Title, but think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vs. Larry Bittaker and Roy Norris
Just a note on this story…I am about 25k into writing the rough draft and have had to put it down numerous times. The darkness seeping out of the pages gets to be too much and I need a little reprieve. However, I have brainstormed a fantastic twist which makes the light shine in through the peep hole, so it’s all good. Anyway, this is a story about a female serial killer who brutally attacks and kills woman who remind her of her mother. See what I mean? In case you are wondering, I love my mom.
The most interesting part of the research I’ve done is that it has been focused on male serial killers. There are quite a few notorious female serial killers; however, many focused solely on injecting others with poisons. Some of the more brutal crime sprees were in tandem with their husbands.
I’ve worked on finding this information through a few sources: the internet and newscasts/interviews. As a Netflix junkie, I’ve found a plethora of information for my stories here. The most notable one is The Killer Speaks. In these episodes, mass, serial, and spree killers are interviewed. They honestly account for their crimes and a criminal psychologist discusses their mental state and background.
NA Contemporary Paranormal/Horror
VIOLET THE MONSTER HUNTER
Now, this story is a little more fun to write and research. All I have to do is put on a Supernatural or Buffy episode and I’m golden! Well, not quite, but close. I envision this idea to become a series, rather than it be a stand alone title. With this in mind, I am able to keep some of the storyline a little lighter in this and leave some of the more in-depth monster stuff for later. Setting up a series is different, so there is little need to info dump here.
I have done more research than just watching TV. Originally the setting was NYC–because why not? It’s one of my favorite places in the world. The problem is, there are so many novels set in New York that I needed to find a different place to make my setting more unique. Hence using my second favorite area–Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. I’ve been here a few times to visit my sister, but I don’t know everything about the city. I’ve looked up boat tours of the lakes and rivers in Minneapolis, because there is a date scene that revolves around this:) And don’t worry, I will be including a few of my favorite spots from my own travels.
So, yeah. Research.
With the internet, a writer can be anywhere in the world in 30 seconds. Can dig up the most obscure history of our world’s past. There is no reason to NOT do research, to not get every piece of information correct in your writing. But it can’t be the EVERYTHING of your writing. It’s the story that wins over your reader. It’s your honesty as a writer that calls to us.
Go forth and research, but use this wonderful quote from Stephen King to guide you through:
“If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it. You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.”