Monday, October 31, 2022

Authenticity Plus Creativity = a Well Researched Book

The Prime Crime Panel "Research: Write What You Know or Study Up?" brought together four panelists and a moderator (me) to talk about our methods. Throughout the Indianapolis conference, other authors commented on their approaches. 

Some writers cultivate experts who are willing to share expertise on their work, whether it relates to details of solving a crime (Trace Conger) or Mayan civilizations (Julia Kellman). Carol Preflatish has visited the New England area on which her fictional Mystic is based (read Salem). For her first book in the Nathan Perry series she also did a lot of research on witchcraft. 

Karen Musser Nortman (who writes the Frannie Shoemaker campground series) knows a lot about camping, but has to research topics relevant to the plot of individual books. The Corpse of Discovery explored the death of Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Did he die of natural causes? Lots of historical research there.

A couple authors advocated having a clipboard with a blank page on top. Even the most reluctant source sees that page and starts talking. 

  Above right: Trace Conger, Carol Preflatish, Karen Musser  Nortman 

Authenticity is key. Conger believes it strengthens the relationship between author and reader. That doesn't mean a setting has to be a real place. John Gilstrap was one of many who said he doesn't want a reader to say that he put a business on the wrong corner.

I do as other some authors do and create a fictional town but place it near real towns. For example, Ocean Alley, home of the Jolie Gentil series, is near Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, New Jersey. Readers can get a better sense of place.       

Above left: are Elaine L. Orr and Julia Kelman

All panelists agreed that we do more research than finds its way into a book. It doesn't represent wasted work; rather good judgment so we don't overwhelm readers.

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To learn more about Elaine, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.  

Photos by Phil Kellman.

Friday, October 28, 2022

A Panel on Research in Writing

As someone who did analytical research for years, I like to delve into almost any topic. If I'm looking for information for a book I'm writing, I need to be careful not to go down the research rabbit hole or I might not surface for hours.

What do I look for in a source?

  • Clear presentation. Run-on sentences, passive voice, and jargon send me back to a search engine.
  • Good information presented with an opinion. Otherwise, it could be the advice of someone on a soapbox in a park.
  • Links to other sources. I do go to Wikipedia as a starting point at times. If there are a number of reputable sources, I'll keep reading or use the online encyclopedia as a jumping off point.

I also appreciate authors who discuss their sources. Look at one of Erik Larsen's books -- nonfiction that tells stories as well as fiction. At the end of every book, he discusses his sources at length. 

I'm at the Prime Crime conference at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis and tomorrow I'll moderate a panel on research and mystery writing. Tomorrow evening I'll let you know what more I've learned.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

In a World Where Makeup Matters

I followed a link in something I was reading (can't remember what, truly) and it took me to a photo of an accomplished movie star. The person who posted it had a comment about the star's makeup not being as carefully done as usual.

Really? An often-nominated actor and the thing to comment on is makeup?

My next thought was, gosh, I hope I always have something else to think about. Then I recognized my snobbery. If we can all be interested in something beyond our daily lives, it broadens our perspective. But still, makeup?

Then I went to Goodreads (which now also houses Listopia) and put in books about makeup, with an option to be fiction. Check out the results.

Some deal with applying color artfully. Others deal with topics such as "Fiction on the Film Set" or "Fictional Stylists." Among the latter was Permed to Death by Nancy Cohen, first in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. I always enjoy her books.

Someday when I'm not working on two books, I'll explore this topic further. I should probably start with horror. Where would that genre be without disguises? And what about spy fiction? Spies in Disguise is a series for young readers that could draw anyone into reading -- though most kids probably like the Disney animated series.

Think to Follet's masterful Eye of the Needle. German spy Faber has created a meticulous identity, and of course has a backup. Disguise yes, not so much makeup. A lot more to think about.

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To learn more about Elaine, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.