DA Roberts – Author Blog Installment #2 – Know Your Subject – Do Your Research

One of the biggest mistakes I see authors making today is trying to “wing it” when it comes to the details of your story. I can’t stress this enough…Do Not Do This! Your readers are smart. They’ll see right through you. If you’re writing about, let’s say for example, guns. Then do your research. The gun enthusiasts out there will rip you apart when you don’t get it right. Likewise for just about any other subject you care to choose. The lesson here is this: Do Your Research.

Whether its vehicle details in a car chase, the legal details in a crime drama or anything of the type….your knowledge of the details will make or break your story. Taking the time to do your research gives your writing the believability that your readers are looking for. It’s hard to have suspension of disbelief when they are picking apart every detail you write. Therefore it is of paramount importance that you are correct in your details.

I can’t tell you the number of times a military novel was ruined for me when the author made mistakes with the tactics or weapons. I once read a book (I won’t name it) that was set during the Viet Nam conflict. Two characters were in a foxhole and were engaging the enemy. One was using an M-79 Grenade Launcher and the other was “taking grenades from the bandolier for the Grenade Launcher, pulling the pin and throwing them.” Now, I don’t know how much you know about guns and grenades, but being former military myself, I couldn’t read any more. You can’t “pull the pin” on a 40mm grenade. They look like big shotgun shells and are designed to be used in the launchers, only. They don’t work like that, and it totally destroyed the author’s credibility with me. I couldn’t finish the book. There were other bad examples from that book, but that one was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

It is just this kind of thing that you want to avoid. The old cliché that states, “The Devil is in the details” is absolutely correct. As a writer, you may not want to immerse yourself in the inner workings of your subject. You might be content to give only the barest of details and let the reader fill in the gaps with their own imaginations. No one expects you to be able to give a dissertation on the workings of a nuclear reactor just because you describe one in your story. However, having said that, the details you provide will need to be spot on. Fortunately, the bulk of the information on a wide variety of subjects can be found just a Search Engine away.

The invention of the internet has made gathering the details for your novel so simple that they are quite literally right at your fingertips. So, take the time and Google, Bing, Yahoo, Opera or whatever you choose to use to find the information you need. You and your readers will be glad you did. Going the extra distance to make notes and learn the details of your subject will pay off in the long run. Whether you’re writing an action novel, a horror tale or the next Great American mystery…the details will be the things your readers remember.

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