Way back in the 1980s (remember those days?) Bodie Thoene came onto the Christian fiction scene with her Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicle series, detailing pre-WWII Europe and post-WWII Israel. I fell in love with those books. With Murphy and Elisa. With David and Ellie. I’m sure a lot of you remember those books and loved them just as much as I did.
I knew then that I was going to be a historical fiction writer. I knew it! Why? Because I loved how the Thoenes researched their time period and drew out such minuscule and fascinating details. Tidbits I’d never heard in history class but tidbits that made history come alive and grab me. I wanted to do that.
So I wrote a historical. And got lost, completely lost, in the research.
It was fascinating! So much stuff I’d never heard before! I could have researched for hours. And I did.
Somehow, my writing tastes changed to contemporary fiction, and I do think part of it was because of the research. Writing contemporary fiction would be so much easier in comparison. Right? Because I was living it. How hard could it be to write about the time period I’m living in?
Saturday night I was watching Live PD. It’s a TV show that follows different police officers on their beat in almost live time. They follow different units across the country, so they’re jumping from one unit to another as something happens. And I told one of my kids, only partly joking, “This is writing research.”
That got me thinking about the variety of things I’ve had to research as a contemporary author. Off the top of my head I’ve researched divorce, child custody, and surrogacy laws in multiple states. I’ve researched the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists (which I would now have to refer back to my notes because I can not keep that straight!), and I know far more about a specific type of ankle sprain than I ever cared to know. When writing Kept, I just about lived on Google Earth so that I could get the terrain and buildings of Chicago’s Grant Park exactly right. I’ve researched different cars to find the perfect vehicle for my male characters and created lists of phrases and words real men their age would say. I’ve researched what it feels like to be tased and how to kill someone in a very specific way (sorry — no spoilers here!). I’ve spent time on realty sites, looking for the perfect location and home and spent hours watching shows that gave me a deeper insight into the life of the professional athlete.
It’s amazing to me how often something comes up in my story that I know nothing about. Nothing! And I have to stop and do a crash course on it until I get the information I need. There’s even a book idea I’ve had for over a decade that I don’t have scheduled because the amount of research involved is daunting.
But that research pays off, doesn’t it? I know all kinds of historical trivia, random facts, stuff like that. It’s really good for surprising your husband. :)
And, hopefully, it’s really good for creating awesome fiction.
You readers, what are things you’ve learned from novels you’ve read? Any random facts or cool trivia you remember? Here’s a cool trivia fact from me. My kids are out of school! Homeschooling is over for the year. So I’ll be checking comments here a whole lot earlier today. Looking forward to chatting with you all!