Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Make sure your research is up to date

When writing, one must always do their research, but you should also ensure that your research is up to date. Just because you research something a year ago doesn’t mean that things haven’t changed in that time. It only takes 15 seconds for a massive earthquake to reduce a major metropolis to rubble.

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  1. You know the Warren Zevon song “Werewolves of London?” The line about Lee Ho Fooks? It’s a real place, but it closed years ago. I found that out after writing a whole scene in the place. I was making an intentional reference to the place and hated to have to change it. Instead, I did what any good fiction writer does — improvise. “I thought that place was closed.” “No, it recently reopened.” The story includes several references to Zevon’s songs. I had to look up lyrics I thought I knew, read interviews with the departed singer/songwriter, and reference some maps. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner operated in some countries you might not see on a current map. My friend C.F. Waller hates to travel, but his books take his characters all over the globe. Check them out for an example of someone who does their research well.

    • I have seen this sort of thing done in other places too. It’s a technique known as “hanging a lantern on it.” You as the writer know that something is not quite right, and you know that your readers will know too. So you deliberately say something either within narrative or through character dialogue that highlights that you know it’s not right, but have taken literary license. Because you’ve highlight it, reader accept it and move one.

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