December 31, 2012

Getting the Details Right – Research

By Susie Schecter

My manuscript took over seven years to write partly because I did so much research. Research is where I obtained the original idea for my book and I continued to do research as I was writing the manuscript until it was finally published. My inspiration for this story was a remarkable spark from real life, not an autobiography or a memoir.

I spent hours at my local library and hours on the Internet to deepen the historical framework of the story. Early on, as far back as 2001, I felt a certain amount of responsibility to stay true to the facts, and true to my two main characters - John MacDonald and Elsie Wilkins. Mostly, because these two people did exist in the first half of the 20th century. By making research a top priority, I uncovered some interesting facts and details that helped me understand my characters in a whole new way. I weaved the story out of factual material because I was trying to capture the essence of a 1930s love story. I was determined to breathe life into these two people and I wanted tell the truth of my own past life hypnosis experience. In addition, integrating facts, events, details and other research findings into my work helped me to advance the plot. Sometimes I did have to take creative license and fill in the blanks of John and Elsie’s lives, but I never invented historical situations that were inaccurate.

My book, Lifetimes Ago: A Love Story Inspired from past life memories  was sort of a nonfiction fiction novel. The preface, afterword, documents and “behind the story” sections are nonfiction. I believe all my extensive research made the characters and the story more vivid. I tried to create a progression of events and incidents that were arranged cohesively to create a storyline that compelled the reader to feel the emotion and feel as though they were right there in the story.

Historical fiction - more than any other genre has to succeed and capture the reader on many levels. First by transporting the reader completely to another time and place through convincing and compelling historical details. Secondly, by creating characters that are complex yet appear genuine. Thirdly, to lead a reader through a tapestry of reliable facts, settings, details and events and lastly something that is true for any genre - to build a narrative that works well as a good story including the basics of a strong beginning, interesting middle and unpredictable end.

Time is a valuable resource to writers: time to work, time to write, time for a personal life, time to do research. And research seems the least important; after all, you could have someone else look up information for you. But I feel research is some of the most important aspects for creating persuasive work. The right kind of research can set your writing apart from all the rest by immersing it with accurate context, lifelike dialogue, interesting facts and memorable characters.

As I wrote, I constantly asked myself… what does the reader need at this moment of the story? What do I want the experience and result of the writing to be? What do they want? What do they feel? Then gave it to them…only hopefully better.
Susie Schecter earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from California State University Dominguez Hills in Communications and a Certificate of Hypnotherapy from the American Board of Hypnotherapy. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and in public relations.
Susie resides with her boyfriend, Mike,and their two dogs in a planned community in Orange County, California. Mike and Susie have been together for nine years. 
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