Monday, October 10, 2011

When History Repeats Itself--Too Much

By Julie Daines

Scott recently wrote a great post on including details in our writing that can help bring the characters and settings to life. In today's post, I want to take that one step further--or maybe a step to the side.

A large portion of one of my novels is set among the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest before they ever encountered "White Man." I had to do weeks of research. I learned an enormous amount of interesting and fascinating facts, and I wanted to find a way to put them all in my story. But, I couldn't. Waaay to boring. I can't expect all readers to have my same excitement level for how they smoked salmon and the hierarchy of the different clans.

Then I found this great quote by bestselling author Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I'll just let his words speak for themselves.
I think you have to be careful with research in fiction. I believe the best way to use it is to learn a lot yourself about what you're going to write, and then don't really use more than 1 percent of all the research you've done, at least visibly. 
But you need to know all about it, because the effective way to use research in fiction is to internalize it and embed its essence in the narrattive fabric of the tale. 
Information only works in fiction when it plays a dramatic role.
Often you read novels in which the author includes much of the research he's done on a subject or a period or a place. None of that stuff sticks to the reader's brain unless it is instrumental in terms of story.
It needs to work dramatically. In literature you need to find a way to incorporate it in the texture, the aesthetics, and the fabric of the world your building rather than a display or erudition. That way the readers absorb it without realizing they're doing it.
So, there you have it. Once again, less is so much more.

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1 comment:

Scott said...

I love research, and I dump as much as I need to into first drafts, then I take most of it out. But that "texture" Julie mentions remains. But this isn't only true of historical research. The same applies to fantasy/scifi world building.

Put it all in, then take out anything that doesn't further the story.