Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 346 of the 365 Days of Blogging

the author/publisher,
Dane F. Baylis




We've all done it. Picked up a book and started to get involved with the story only to come to a passage dealing with some detailed information or explanation that did not ring true. Everything comes to a screeching halt right there. The author has violated one of the premises of a willing suspension of disbelief by slapping you in the face with some clumsy bit of bull shit.
How can you as a writer avoid this? First, broaden your reading. We all have some style, genre, period, or type of fiction we're drawn to, but that is usually a tiny part of the menu available. If you're going to include some specific reference in your work, find something out about the subject. 
If you place your story in a certain type of geographic setting, read about areas like that. There are any number of atlases, geographic texts, hell, go out and look up a copy of National Geographic with an article about a similar area. Start on-line if you want, but don't neglect your local library.
Want to deal with something technical? Let's say weapons of particular types, or the damage they can do? Gruesome as it might sound, you can find some very detailed historic texts on those very subjects. From early bronze age to the mountains of Afghanistan, the work is there.
The handling characteristics of a certain vehicle? Sailing craft, plane of whatever description, or automobile? Someone else has covered it for you. Try canvasing organizations whose interests center around what you want to know. Nothing beats personal experience to moisten the dry content of a manual or instructional resource.
What about scientific method? Forensics? Chemical reactions? The effects of high atmosphere oxygen deprivation in a mountainous environment? The conditions and requirements of certain jobs and occupations? Hell, some of it is as simple as watching or asking others in these professions or trades.
What I'm saying is, with a modicum of effort, you can bring details into your work that will make them far more believable and remove the stigma from you as a hack doing an amateurish job. Every bestselling author and a lot more authors making a consistent, if not fabulous, living from their writing, understand this basic premise. Even if they're writing science fiction or steam punk, the key is to find the facts that can by-pass the reader's bull shit meter.
For those of you who want to go further, there are readings in philosophy, ethics, law, sociology, the make up of  humanity and the ever fluid conditions of life. The deeper your understanding, the deeper your audiences' involvement. If nothing else, you will broaden your own familiarity with the human condition which is a sure way to create more complex and interesting characters.
What it all comes down to is the simple principle that anyone who wants to be a writer needs, first, to be an omnivorous reader. If you don't go through at least a couple of books from diverse writers, genres, and subjects a month, your product at the typewriter will reflect your unfamiliarity with the pantheon of experience available. Even the guys from MAD MAGAZINE were voracious consumers of the printed word. What makes you think you can do better?
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write, and read, read, read.
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Dane F. Baylis

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