If you’re going to write a credible story that your readers will want to invest in, it must be believable. And to be believable, you have to research, research, research! I know it can be tedious, and I sometimes wonder if readers would notice if something is a little “off.” Trust me, they will! There are no shortcuts in this department (even fantasy must be believable), so let research become your best friend and ally!
Don’t Turn Them Off!
One of the quickest ways to turn a reader away from your book is to tell them something that isn’t so. I made a mistake in the early draft of one of the books in our just-finished series. I had a character sit down and have a cup of tea. Turns out, people didn’t drink tea in Medieval Scotland – it wasn’t available in the 13th century. It was formally introduced to the country in the early 1600s. Yikes! Luckily, my co-author spotted it and we switched their beverages to cider or ale.
Even the “big names” make mistakes. The movie Braveheart depicted William Wallace and others wearing kilts and plaid garments. Turns out, kilts were not worn in Scotland until the 1720s, and William Wallace died in 1305. Oops! I can’t help but wonder what the research department was doing; perhaps it was an artistic license decision, but I like authenticity in my movie characters (even one as handsome as Mel Gibson).
A Firm Foundation
Reliable, accurate details provide a solid foundation for your story and enables you to build from that great base. The characters in the story I’m currently writing live in New York City. I’ve been to NYC, but I need specific locations and information that my reader can depend on and believe in – something that will let them become immersed in the story. Google Maps to the rescue! I found a great neighborhood for my friends and bus/subway lines that will take them where they need or want to go.
There will be some details (like a bakery) that I have created, but I’m okay with that as long as the rest of the real estate actually exists. It also eliminates any legal or permission issues with using a real business that happens to be located on that particular street. Having these details firmly in place lets the characters settle in and navigate their way in a real place that actually exists. Although I’m not a fantasy writer, I think those worlds need to have that same level of believability, even if they can’t be found on a map.
Now that you have an accurate, immersible world for your characters, you can send them off on whatever adventures or journeys you have in mind for them. The world you’ve created for them becomes a sort of base camp or jumping off point for whatever you decide is going to happen next!