Seven Edits part 4: Research Revision

After the character revision, this is probably the biggest. Check your facts. Though you don’t need to go overboard, everything, be it contemporary romance, science fiction, alternate history, or fantasy, is researchable to some degree.

Specifically, make sure there is plausibility and believability with:

  1. Laws of physics. Do cars actually do that when they crash? What does it really look like when someone is shot? What happens when it falls from that height? Can a person survive a lake dive from that height? Would he really get knocked out from getting hit by a door like that?
  2. Language. Check the language against the time period. If it’s an alternate universe, make sure there are no trendy modern terms in their speech. If your setting is the future or some other world, that society will probably have it’s own trendy terms. You don’t have to make an entire dictionary (unless you really want to), but you may want to write a few down.
  3. Skills, jobs, and roles. Can ninjas really do that? Would a janitor really have that kind of access? Does the president of the U.S. have that power? Do police really behave that way? Watch carefully for that one. I see it violated all the time in books, and it pulls me out of the story every time–and I know very little about proper police procedures. Someone who knows more may just put down the book for good.) If you’re too shy to call someone in that field, no worries, a good Internet search can probably get you all the info you need. You just might want to verify your findings in two or three different sources if it’s an integral part of your story.
  4. World. Every book uses world building, even if (such as in historical fiction) the rules are already established. Your job is to research those rules. How would that climate in this area effect their efforts to search for the treasure? What is the terrain and foliage like? Keep it consistent and interesting. Can they survive overnight in that weather/temperature? If there isn’t much description, put in little samples throughout the text—not long descriptive paragraphs. Bob picked a fern leaf. “So, where should we go from here?” We now know there are ferns. Get the senses involved. The more you can use the better. Mix senses where possible. The more the reader can see the world in his/her mind, the more they will become wrapped up in the story.
  5. Fantasy rules. You can often make up your own rules in fantasy, just make sure you are consistent and keep your own rules. If there are exceptions, make the exception known (or at LEAST hinted at) before the exception takes place, so the reader doesn’t feel like you’re changing the rules for convenience.
  6. Social expectations. There are all kinds of unwritten rules of conduct that we live by every day, such as rules of proximity, common courtesies, and nonverbal communication. Your character is welcome to act outside of those rules, and if they are from another world, visiting a contemporary setting, they most assuredly will break those rules. The trick with research here is to discover how other people would react to the indiscretion. Researching that kind of stuff can be really fun, because there are a bazillion Youtube videos of people doing things that break social norms, such as ordering strange things at a drive through, eating in inappropriate settings, and saying things that you just don’t say to strangers. Obviously the joke is in the stranger’s reaction, which is good, because that’s the behavior you want to study.

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About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.