Doing research for your book can be a chore or it can be fun but as today’s guest blogger tells us, it has to be done right…
Many memes are doing the rounds on the internet that poke fun at the research habits of writers. For most of them, the punch-line is “In case of death, delete my browser history.”
Another popular example is in the lines “Anyone knows how many air fresheners it takes to get the dead body smell out of a basement? Just asking for a friend.” Yeah, I know. I’ve met quite a lot of people asking questions for a friend, but never the actual friend. But the fact remains that for writing fiction a writer must study the way the real world moves. There are no shortcuts. Do your research, do it right, or be prepared for the consequences.
Now, there are consequences on both sides of that research equation, don´t do it and readers will get mad at you. Do it right, and you may learn more than you wanted to.
Between my novels in English Treasure Hunt and Firefall, I published one in Spanish titled ¨Heredero del mal,” roughly translated is Heir to Evil. The story centers on, as many novels do, a what-if question. What if Hitler had had children?
Doing the research for that novel took me down some of the darkest alleys found on the web. And I don´t mean politician’s websites. Here´s a few example that should illustrate the point:
- How did they diagnose a pregnancy in 1945?
- The life of Adolf Hitler and Eva Brown.
- What was it like living in The Bunker?
- Nazis in America.
- Stories on concentration camps.
The first three were pretty straightforward. One point of note was comparing Hitler’s and Eva Brown’s Wikipedia entry. While the former had pages after pages, the latter’s entry in history only amounted to a couple of paragraphs not filling more than half a page. This was disappointing because, in order for my plot to work, I had to tweak history with two facts: Get Eva Brown pregnant and keep her alive after 1945. Yes, I kind of felt like a Time Lord messing with a fixed point in history.
The last two items on the list proved to be proverbial cans of worms. By far the most embarrassing, and disconcerting, website I encountered happened while researching concentration camps. I haven’t heard of history revisionists, so imagine my surprise to discover a site proclaiming the concentration camps were a lie, and that the Jews were kept in areas not unlike social clubs. And they had some footage to prove it! I sat there mesmerized, glued to my cracked old laptop monitor watching grainy black and white images of people having drinks and laughing, while other diving into pools. In short, Jews were having a good time.
All of the topics above were necessary for me to write the prologue, not more than a few pages of text. However, I knew those pages were the foundation of my plot. If I couldn´t achieve the reader´s suspension of disbelief and show them how Eva Brown had survived, impregnated with Hitler’s child, and smuggled to America, then the story would fail.
The last example I´ll share is about not doing the research and paying for it. Some time ago I was reading this book where the character takes his children to Disney World. At some point he takes the kids, the youngest being just a tad older than a toddler, into a new attraction. I’d bet the author had never been to that attraction himself. How do I know? Well, for starters I have visited, and the attraction in question has a warning because it’s frightening for small children. A small detail, not even plot related, but it bothered the heck out of me. The end result, the author lost a reader in me.
About the author-
H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He has also worked on scripts for motion pictures and domestic television in his home country.
He’s a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers, where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine The Big Thrill.
POISONED TEARS is his third novel in English and has already garnered positive reviews and recommendations. Jon Land calls it “a splendid piece of crime noir,” while Douglas Preston says it’s a first class roller-coaster ride.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/JHBogran0
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jhbogran
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