This is a guest post by Jessica Walsh.
Write what you know, or so the old adage goes. Writers are supposed to write what they themselves have experienced, because that’s where their expertise lies and that’s what will sound believable. Myself? I write to explore what I don’t know, because to me there’s nothing more interesting than putting myself in someone else’s shoes and exploring what they would do in a situation I’ve never actually faced before.
This presents a problem, though, when you’re writing fiction. As much as the single sided role play is fun, there’s a certain amount of research that has to be done to even get anywhere. When you have a limited budget and a busy schedule, finding that perfect source can be elusive, so you just have to get a little creative with your sources (while keeping in mind the pitfalls that come with them.)
Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, PBS and other streaming media can be the answer and they’re really my favorite source. Thanks to a few google searches with the right search terms you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for. But is it all true? After all, anyone can upload anything on Youtube, and corporate managers choose what sells on streaming sites, not necessarily what’s factual. Furthermore, unless you have an unlimited broadband package, it’s worth noting that streaming TV, particularly HD programmes, could very quickly use up your monthly data limit. For this reason, if you’re wanting to use streaming for research you might want to consider finding an unlimited broadband package from an internet service provider like Eatel (head to https://www.eatel.com/ for more information). So while streaming can be a great source, here’s a few things to keep in mind before you write that awesome epic story.
- Believe nothing on the internet. The internet is a great source for information and learning – but it is also ever changing and easily editable. This means that anything you find should be double checked. Google the authors and creators. Google the sources they mention. Yes, I’m suggesting you use the internet to fact check the internet – if you find several unrelated sites with the same information, there’s a higher chance that it’s true and a little more reliable than most.
- All sources are biased. You found the perfect article or documentary, and it’s completely unbiased – that’s great! However they’re all biased, even if simply by the fact that they’re made. So do some extra searching; look at the other side of the picture. If nothing else, it might illuminate a new angle you didn’t think of.
- Don’t limit your search, be creative. You have an awesome idea – but there are no documentaries on the inner pack workings of wereleopards and their immortal enemies. No problem, break it down. Check out specials on real leopards and their living groups. Google the longest living animal on earth and watch a few specials on that. Toss in some specials about domestic cats and how they interact with humans and you have some great places to start.
- Focus on experience. Many sources will be incorrect and you may run into an issue where you can’t find opposing views to work with. Don’t worry! You probably have a character who’s stumbling into a new world and won’t understand all of it from the get-go. Use that to your advantage. Give the story as solid a foundation as you can, then fill in the holes with believability. Focus on the character’s experience in exploring this world and use their actions and thoughts to make it truly real. No one gets it completely right, but good writing can make many mistakes forgivable or even forgotten.
Remember in the end, fiction is all about the experience. Readers want to be swept away into your world with characters and actions and settings that are believable and easy to slip into. Source material, documentaries, and articles really only create the foundation and world for your characters and ideas to play around in. So research what you can and go from there. You don’t have to spend the next ten years living in the back of trailers with circus performers to write a convincing fantastical romance under the big top. It would be great if you could, but when you can’t – streaming media isn’t a bad second option.
Jessica Walsh is an author, seamstress and muse living in Minnesota with her partner of over 13 years. When they aren’t dressing up as Disney Princesses at Anime Conventions, they’re usually at a Pancake house typing away on laptops and dreaming of worlds where a Storyteller can change lives with a pen, puddles can swallow full people and certain non-human creatures live in circus trailers. You can check out her latest book ‘Ironbound Kisses’ from Dreamspinner Press and other works at her website.