Today, I have another writing friend here to give everyone a new perspective on research. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post. Please welcome Morgan Smith to the blog!
Fact and Fiction – Pulling it Together
By Morgan Smith
I have said from the very start of my writing career that I don’t do “writing advice.”
That was kind of a lie, because now I’m going to tell you about the terrible, dangerous nexus between all those carefully garnered facts and writing fiction.
Beware, beware: because the days/weeks/months you’ve spent organizing all those incredible details into easily-accessible files can trip you up.
It’s called the info-dump for a reason: it will appear like giant walls of text: blow-by-blow summaries of exactly how the monetary system in your world/14th century France works; recipe-by-recipe descriptions of forty-seven different kinds of food served at a medieval banquet; long political diatribes detailing the exact relationship of one peerage to another in a semi-feudal society.
You must resist. You must. Plenty of authors don’t, and while there are readers who like a fictional story to read like a high school text book–I’m not saying there aren’t–the vast majority of readers are looking for something that takes them out of themselves, without the destination being a classroom. Most readers are, in the end, looking to escape, and nowhere is this more true than in fantasy fiction.
You, as the writer definitely need to know and care about every bit of this. You need to know your world inside and out. It’s really the only reliable way to make sure your world holds together as tightly as the Great Wall of China.
But the hook in this enormous net of factoid fish is that your readers really do not care.
They don’t need to know those details and frankly, they don’t want to. There is nothing that will stop a reader faster than stepping outside the story to deliver a History 101 lecture on currency exchange in the fictional 1200’s.
But then, why bother doing all that work?
And this is where the authorial magic trick occurs.
When you know your stuff, it shows. You only need the most minimal of details to make your reader feel that they are in good hands–because for some reason, when you really, really know your apples, you don’t need to deliver all those details.
It all somehow magically bleeds through in the way the prose gets out. The reader senses that there is authority there without the writer having to prove it by listing all the minutiae out. They can feel the reality, BECAUSE you aren’t spending 20,000 words showing them the skeleton underneath the flesh.
And they will rave about your world-building, even though you have only twitched the curtain aside for a microsecond, and given them the merest glimpse of the mechanics. They’ll feel it, and they’ll know it, and they will sink deeper into the story, never daring to let go.
And that’s a reader worth having.
Morgan Smith is a former goatherd, a textiles geek, and occasionally an archaeologist. She is also the author of several fantasy novels including “The Shades of Winter”, “Casting in Stone”, and “A Spell in the Country”, a romantic fantasy called “The Mourning Rose”, and a memoir about growing up hippie in the 60s. Her life is held together by caffeine, cigarettes, and cheap granola bars, and she will drop everything to go anywhere, on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Casting in Stone Book 1 of The Averraine Cycle
They said ill winds blew at her back. They said she was cursed: a hex, and a jinx. And it was true: everywhere she went, no matter what she did, misfortune seemed to follow in her wake. But that, of course, wasn’t the worst of it.
A Spell in the Country Book 2 of The Averraine Cycle
What if you weren’t “The Chosen One” but still had to try to save the world?
The Shades of Winter A Novel of Averraine
An aging band of sea raiders set out on one last voyage of revenge, and get a whole lot more than they bargained for.
The Mourning Rose
Manners meet magic in this tale where curses mix with curtseys, and Charm takes on a whole new dimension.
Flashbacks (an unreliable memoir of the ‘60s)
A collection of memories about growing up hippie in Toronto, during one of the most interesting periods of the 20th century. Not to mention the sex, drugs and rock and roll…