Writing Update and Research Problems: Losing the thread of the story in weeds and thickets

Writing problems have been with us since time immemorial. But there are new resources that make some aspects easier.I wrote twelve pages yesterday on the new Haxan novel. I think I am finally in a safe place as far as the novel goes. There is still a lot of research to do. I am planning a trip to Fort Griffin this weekend. I’m looking forward to that.

As a writer I want to get the details right. I have never been so particular that I had to know the exact number of steps between flights of stairs in an historic hotel or something like that. I once heard Frederick Forsyth interviewed on radio years ago and he actually said that. He said he wanted to know the number of steps from street level to a particular building and I thought to myself “What the hell for?” Unless the number of steps play an integral part in the storyline it’s not important. I also see this a lot in some science fiction where the writer gets lost in the weeds of facts and detail and loses the thread of the story.

I remember when I was in Santa Fe at La Fonda and you could see the Governor”s Palace from that point across the plaza. I would not have known that if I hadn’t gone to Santa Fe and I used it in a novel. Of course, Google Earth and its street view capability also adds a new dimension of research, along with Wikipedia and YouTube and other outlets.

But my point here is I used it because it was important. Marwood was leaning out the window of La Fonda and he saw the Goveronor’s Palace, a place he had to visit later on. But I sure didn’t give a damn how many actual cobblestones lay between La Fonda and the Governor’s Palace. That’s my point. You start dwelling on minute detail like that and the story will get away from you very, very fast.

Today I am going to use Starry Night Pro to see what the night sky looked like at a particular time in 1869. I have no intention of noting the actual right ascension and declination of any particular astronomical object, but I want to know this because at this point in the book the night sky plays an integral part in advancement of plot and character growth.

When you come down to it, nothing beats actually being present to see the sights and sounds for yourself, though. There are lots of good resources online which we didn’t have when I first started writing professionally. I just wish writers would be less wedded to unimportant detail and concentrate more on delivering a believable and memorable story.

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2 Comments

  1. True, K.M., that we should not fret so much about masses of detail, but the story-line itself. However, I do applaud you most heartily for focusing on the points of light in the particular night sky of your scenes. THAT type of detail is often so critical to the rationale of the actions of the characters and play their own critical role in determining the denouemont.

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