Jeanine O'Loughlin

Fantasy, Science Fiction & Historical Fiction Author, Blogger, and Geek

Tag: Research

Back to School – Reference: Writing Excuses Podcast, Resource: Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast

September is the time when we in the US start preparing for the new school year. So each Monday I’ll be posting a piece of reference and a resource I use (have used) for developing my writing.

Reference:

The podcast “Writing Excuses” is a great place to go for discussions, exercises, prompts and other writing advice from some wonderful published authors. They have episodes spanning several years that touch just about every topic of writing in short bite-sized format.

http://www.writingexcuses.com

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Resource:

I’ve mentioned this podcast before on this blog briefly. “Stuff you Missed in History Class” is a wonderful podcast that runs about an hour-long several times a week that covers people, places, events, and things in history. They also provide great suggestions for resource materials on the topic and will provide what is speculation, what is held as the “most likely” truth from historical experts and what is actually documented in the historical record. There are subjects spanning from ancient history to more modern history. You can search all of their episodes (which spans hundreds) on their website. I use this as a jumping off point for any historical fiction projects I’m working on.

http://www.missedinhistory.com

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Back to School – Reference: Writer’s Journey, Resource: Pinterest

September is the time when we in the US start preparing for the new school year. So each Monday I’ll be posting a piece of reference and a resource I use (have used) for developing my writing.

Reference:

http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Journey-Mythic-Structure-3rd/dp/193290736X

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This is a book I was recommended to read in college by a friend. It takes Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and puts it into the context of using it for writing. There are a lot of references used from pop culture to really help you understand the concept. While it’s presented as a “formula” I found it more of an inspirational/insightful reference that helped me more as an editor and when I analyzed things I read than it did my writing.

Resource:

https://www.pinterest.com/

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Now if you haven’t heard of this site it’s a site that is designed to be your never-ending cork board for everything you could possibly imagine. I have used this a lot for my other hobbies, sewing/costuming etc. but I’ve also found it a great tool for inspiration, vocabulary charts, and even reference images for things like characters, costumes, settings etc.

If you’re not one for sharing you can even make your boards private so only you can see them. Again it’s a great place to just get ideas and find some fun ways to inspire yourself.

You can follow my writing pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/jeanineoloughli/

How Much Research Is Enough?

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

As someone who likes to write science & historical fiction there are often times when I need to do some research to bring some accuracy to the story. How much research time I put into a piece will depend on the length of the piece and the prominence of the piece. For example a one-off short story I’ll research just enough to get the vibe right but make up a lot of the details. On the other hand if it’s a series or a novel length piece I’ll spend a significant amount of time getting the history or the science correct. Sources I use for my research are mostly the internet but also I’ll seek out documentaries, specialized blogs, or books and articles if I still don’t feel I have a solid grasp on the information I’m seeking. This can take a considerable amount of time, but it’s so important to make a story feel real, especially if it’s a historical fiction piece.

Historical fiction is where I find research is needed most, and I have to keep as much of the true known history in tact. However, where the historical record has speculation or hazy views is where I find I can take the story into the fictional/fantasy realm. Ancient history is particularly great for this since so much of the historical record is still missing or unclear. This is sad for the history books, and the inner archaeologist in me, but wonderful as a writer as these gaps are where I feel the freedom to go hog-wild. By keeping the hard facts the same I feel it seats the story into history itself allowing the reader to really feel like they’re seeing into another place in time.

Science fiction is such a broad genre these days that it really depends on the story to determine if and how much research I need to do. Typically if I’m dealing with a hard science I will do enough research to ensure my terminology is correct, but allow myself to stray from the current state of science just enough to help bring my story into another world. Again I’m trying to seat my story just enough in reality to make it believable to the reader but not enough to corner myself into writing an encyclopedia article rather than an interesting narrative.

There’s a delicate balance between including good real world research and developing your fanciful narrative. It’s something that I will focus a lot on during edit passes and ask myself if the story is becoming too dry or if I’m giving the reader enough information to make it feel believable. There’s no hard rule but for my style of writing I would say I write 60-70% fictional and 30-40% fact when it comes to my historical or hard science narratives. The lighter the science the more narrative and less fact is involved.

Happy Writing!

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