Readers are often surprised when they learn that fiction requires research. You’re just making up the story, right? How can you get anything wrong?
Let me give you a couple of examples from the novel I’m currently working on, The Crappy Used Diary.
One of the key characters is a 14-year-old girl whose parents are adamantly opposed to her wearing makeup. Their opposition is equally met by her obsession with the stuff. Strategies for obtaining this essential substance help to enrich the plot.
I know little about makeup, and even less about how one might go about a DIY project in which two teenagers attempt to create it. Hello, YouTube. Suffice to say that burnt almond, honey, and olive oil play their roles.
Further, I know only a smattering of teen speak. Urban Dictionary is helpful here. My teenage niece is crucial.
I have no one to teach me the vernacular of a teenage girl in 1914, so I am on the search for diaries of that period.
For this book, I also need to know what was going on day-to-day in 1914. Several timeline sites on the Internet help me there. I need to keep in mind that news did not travel so fast 100 years ago, so major events would not reach ranchers sometimes for days.
I might get away with some errors in the 1914 entries in the book. Most readers won’t do a lot of fact checking. If I mess up the contemporary chat I’m in big trouble. That’s the language of my readers.