Posts Tagged ‘research’

Many writers are very organized people, and they are called plottersfractal-1681742_960_720, making their outlines and using bullet points before really setting down to write.

Other writers use their intuition to guide them. They are called pantsers because they “fly by the seat of the pants.”

Then there are those of us who do a little of both, one way or another.

The funny thing about my NaNoWriMo project is I have the whole thing planned out in as close to an outline as I can get, but I’m not able to tell the story.

Why?

For me, outlines are very bad.

I didn’t intend to “plan” the story. I wrote down my idea  so that I wouldn’t forget while I was working on Book Two of my trilogy. This has tricked my brain into thinking that I’ve already written this story and now I’m struggling to actually write the story.

Instead, as I try to push through and find the words, I end up researching. I’ve spent hours
reading up on Mesopotamian history and culture, and I’ve learned some amazing things. My story doesn’t take place in Mesopotamia, but a place inspired by it. All of this research is great, but it’s putting a damper on my actual writing time. I already don’t have much time to write to begin with considering I work 40 hours a week, have a family, write a blog, and of course get caught up in the random distractions we all have.

Another reason I think I’m struggling is because I’m trying not to edit. That’s a “writer rule,” and one that I don’t follow at all. I edit while I write. By the time my first draft is done, every chapter has been edited for content at least once. NaNo rules say “No Editing!” but that’s like telling me “No breathing!” My mind is gasping for air as I try to create the new without fixing the old.

The point of NaNo is to build a writing community and to teach young (or new) writers how to be disciplined and finish something. I’ve never participated before. I have finished things I’ve started – stories, articles, and novels, – doing things my way.

While I struggle with my NaNoWriMo project, my chaotic mind still needs to write something. I’ve been working on part eight of The Hunted. I also started a short story for a contest, because of course I did. The project I thought I would be working on is simmering quietly, taking shape, but also fighting me. With my chaotic mind, I could suddenly find the right thought and it will send me flying through the narrative.

At least you can all expect another episode of The Hunted next week.

Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

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We’ve all heard the saying “write what you know.” That may be good advice in some respects but it’s not practical. There are always moments in a story when things come up which are just beyond our knowledge.

One thing that can really affect your work negatively is poor research. We all know someone (or are that person) who nitpicks a story when plausibility falls apart. It destroys the fourth wall, tears down the suspension of disbelief, and may even cause some readers to give up on the story all together. This is especially true of things which are easily researched.

Another thing poor research can cause, perhaps unintentionally, is spreading misinformation. It’s true that you shouldn’t use fiction books, television, and film as a fact source. The problem is, people do it all the time. When you’re reading a book by an author you trust, you’re more likely to believe what you read in their work, especially if it sounds plausible.

I’m going to use a television show as an example here. Before I go any further I’m giving a spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen the episode of The Walking Dead on November 15th, 2015.

 

*Spoiler*  *Spoiler* *Spoiler*

 

In the November 15 episode, Daryl finds himself a prisoner of three people with a duffle bag, which contains his precious crossbow. After his escape we see the only other thing in that bag is a cooler clearly marked “INSULIN,” which he decides to return.

The information we learn about these people is limited:

  • They’ve been walking through the woods for at least a day trying to escape something and find someone.
  • They are not carrying any food or supplies in that big bag and have no other bags.
  •  One young woman named Tina passes out, labeling her as the person with diabetes.

The problem is, when Daryl returns the cooler Tina’s friend gives her a shot of insulin. This is a major problem because that young woman was most likely suffering from a hypoglycemic episode and giving her insulin is dangerous. She doesn’t need insulin, she needs sugar.

  •  Insulin, when properly refrigerated, will last a couple of years if unopened. After being opened it lasts one month. (So it’s plausible the insulin was still usable.)
  •   If insulin becomes too warm it goes bad.
  • Insulin lowers your blood glucose.
  • The three people didn’t have any supplies and they probably weren’t eating enough carbohydrate to raise Tina’s blood glucose to dangerous levels.
  •  Physical activity lowers blood glucose, and walking in the woods while fighting off zombies is strenuous activity.
  • If a person passes out from low blood glucose they are in danger of never waking up if their glucose drops farther.

You could argue that maybe they had Glucagon in that cooler as well. I would say it was plausible if the cooler didn’t say insulin in big red letters on the front. That prop was clearly set up for people to think “someone has diabetes and needs their insulin.”  If one of her companions had said something about giving her glucose, then maybe I would believe they had glucagon.

Some people will think: why does this matter? It’s a show about zombies which are not real. It matters because diabetes is real and it’s extremely like everyone watching the show will encounter diabetes in their life, either for themselves or someone they know. Also, people don’t understand how insulin works, but that doesn’t mean it is okay to use it incorrectly. People are afraid of insulin to begin with, and spreading misinformation doesn’t help.

What’s even more ironic is this episode aired the day after World Diabetes Awareness Day. Actually, it would be worse to learn it aired as an attempt to be part of teaching people about diabetes.

A show like The Walking Dead is being completely irresponsible in not doing simple, proper research. As I said, people shouldn’t use entertainment as a source of knowledge, but they do it all the time. It only takes one Google search to find out why people with diabetes might pass out. It only takes a second search to learn about insulin.

I know this isn’t the only place where poorly researched storytelling affects a story. If you’ve ever had a story ruined by poor research on a subject you understood, let me know in the comments!