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Friday, 9 August 2013

Research and Facts make for a Better Story

I have an idea for a new story that's been simmering in the lab for the last few months. I've written a very rough draft of the main plot points but have yet to dive in to writing the script. It's going to be between 2 and 4 standard comic book issues long. That's roughly anywhere between 40-90 pages.

The story will be set at an American funeral home with many of the action scenes taking place in a nearby graveyard. An ideal place for a gruesome tale of murder, mutilation, and malintent!

Now, it's easy to just whip out the pen and get busy with the wizzy but, as I've never been to an American funeral home, it makes sense to do a bit of research on the matter first. There are plenty of writing websites that tell you to, "write what you know." Eager writers will charge head first in to brain-story-spewing on a subject they no little about. I is not one of those.

Research and knowledge of a subject will help you to write a better story.


I've written a 6 page war story, which is soon to appear in that most marvellous of small press anthologies, Massacre For Boys. Without proper research on WWI theatres of war, weaponry and locations, the story would have been factually incorrect.

"So What", I hear you cry. Who cares if I had included tanks in the story when factually there were very few German tanks in production, let alone operating in the Middle East during the time the story was set? For some this doesn't matter. For others, the glory is in the details, so why no tickle the pedant's balls and satisfy his needs in your story.

Knowing my facts and figures also helped to drive the plot. Using the details I had discovered opened new options for sub-plots, twists, and plot-devices, that were unknown prior to the research. Without my improved knowledge I'd have been writing a story based on war scenes I'd watched in Carry On films and Hollywood movies. AKA, Bullshit!

Your artist will have to do research in order to get visual reference for authentic imagery of weapons, uniforms, stuff and tings. Why not make it easier for them by helping with that research. In this case, I was able to supply the artist with a visual reference of the location of the story, including a Google Maps reference point, showing a fort that was ideal for the story.

Returning to my new story, I wanted to make it more authentic so began researching American funeral homes. I'm not saying go to the library and borrow 15 encyclopedias. No one wants a story that's all fact and no fiction! Just do a bit of Googling.

This base research helped me to focus on possible plot issues within the story. Whilst surfing, I came across information on Mormon funerals, which sounded interesting. Delving further I found some Mormon religious principles fitted perfectly in to the main plot line. Boom! I'm doing it Mormon style.

This choice has been vastly beneficial to the whole story. Rather than just some boring, average American funeral home, I now have a theme that effects every aspect of the story. The setting. The character's clothing, their attitude to their jobs, to each other, to outsiders. The unique processes of a Mormon funeral service.

This is the meat upon the bones of a story.

Realism will help to draw the audience in. It will flesh out the characters, giving them personality, hopes and desires. Realism will generate interest. It will give your scenarios and situations more depth. Realism will make the reader think you're a better writer, having actually bothered to do some research rather than just making stuff up.

If you've ever worked in sales, you'll know that product knowledge is a key factor to completing a sale. Sure, there are some who can just chat shit and walk away with a huge order. For most, having a good understanding of what you are selling will help you to close the sale. It's the same as doing a presentation. If you know what you're talking about, you'll sound more professional and confident. This can be applied to writing - If you know the subject you are writing about you'll be a better writer. Being a confident and well researched writer means you'll try more literary tricks, or use different dialect or spoken language for certain characters.

Being confident in your understanding of the subject matter will reflect in your writing.

Being generally clueless about Mormon funerals I've recently purchased a PDF article from the University of Mormons (not its real name) titled 'Last Rites and the Dynamics of Mormon Liturgy'. It's a thrilling ride, 33 pages of tightly packed intrigue and, no it's not, but it will give me the insight to craft a superior narrative.

When purchasing this formidable study from the University of Mormons (still not its real name) website, it continually asked me to check my address was correct. Nothing unusual when buying online, but I have a nagging feeling I'm in for a lifetime of Mormon literature being posted through my door.

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