Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Importance of Research


Charles Manson. Sorry about the creepy image. It will prove a point later on, I promise.


I've been learning the lesson of what good research can mean for a story. Not just mediocre okay-I-did-some-scooping-research. But GOOD, in-depth research.

In the beginning years I naively thought that a trip to Wikipedia would be sufficient for all my research needs. Years later as I'm doing final edits on a certain project I decided to dig deeper. Get to the real juicy stuff. And you know what?

I LEARNED SOMETHING.

Yes, I did. Not that Wiki isn't great and all, but I saw several shades of the people I was researching for, other points of view that really rounded them out for me and gave me something more to add to the kaleidoscope that is them.  Added depth. And in the meantime there was this great side effect of me getting smarter, too.

It opened up another idea for me, too. Not just getting the facts straight in my novel, but also realizing all the different ways I can see a character. It affected the way they spoke to each other, how they perceived different situations, how it changed their daily routine/focus or what they did in their down time or when they were stressed. You know, a more psychoanalysis of them.

You might think that one could get carried away with this. Okay, you could. Maybe. But don't despair, my brain did not explode. I got what I needed, and then kept editing. Sometimes I would go on stints. Edit. Research. Edit. Research something new. Edit. Research an even newer topic. In this way I was getting what I needed and not tiring my brain and also not getting out of the habit of editing either.

Here's an example of what I had in the works:

In my story DEAD LIBRARY, my MC, Christian Lewis is a military brat. In the beginning I had him totally obsess about this girl, a girl that he not only likes, but also appears in his dreams in rather realistic ways (don't worry, nothing gross here). Well, my critters thought he sounded like a stalker and needed more than her and the need to fit in to round him out as an individual. So, I gave him a hobby of sorts. A goal besides that of the one that will pop up and become the main story theme. He now wants to be a Navy SEAL when he's old enough. Well, more than a need. He's driven. It's what will get him away from his controlling dad, yet keep his dad happy (since he's also in the military and loves the idea of 'being tough').

So, now that I have this point of view for my character I couldn't really leave things up to my limited knowledge of Navy SEAL life to fill in the blanks. I needed to research. A person like Christian would have really researched Navy SEAL life to know what to expect or if he even wanted to do it. Whether by choice or because his Dad pushed it on him. I needed to know what Christian Lewis knows. What would be expected of him? How should he prepare? What does he know already? Does he have an 'in'?

These things really fleshed out Christian in a way that he'd never been before. He wasn't just a shadow of myself anymore (like most writer's characters are). He's someone separate from me, and yet relatable. And not only that, but I chose a hobby that can help him later on in the story (ie. He will be better prepared to strategize  how to take out his enemy when the time comes).

Another character, is Erick. AKA Christian's new best friend. He's  a genius. I'm not implying that he's just smart, he's actually a child prodigy. And not only that, but he realized this at a young age and doesn't want his parents to know, so he won't become one of those scrutinized wunderkind on television. He wants to blend in--not be noticed--so that he can go on creating inventions he can sell to the highest bidder (a buyer that won't care who he is or how old he is).

Anyway, in the beginning I actually didn't do any research on Erick's character. Because I couldn't find anything that would help at the time. Well, I got smart and realized a better way of looking. Man you wouldn't believe all the YouTube videos out there! Maybe there's still a better way, but that's where I started. This led me to other websites where I found out all about modern day prodigies. This changed a few things about this character, but mostly confirmed things that I already believed. (Hopefully I have him accurate!). Most importantly, I got a look into the lives of someone like Erick. They are normal kids in their way, have the same needs, but they just know a whole bunch of awesome stuff! Again, I really enjoyed this research!

One more character to discuss then I promise I'll stop =). THE VILLAIN!

This is one that I really struggled with for several years. I think I got a good grip on the bad guy character a while back, but I thought, what the heck, let's do some more deepening with the old rapscallion. So, back to YouTube I went. This time to news stories. I love that these stories are so readily available!

So, who do you research for your villain's? Well, I went straight to the worst possible criminals of our modern day. Serial killers. Ted Bundy and Charles Manson to name two. Did you know that Ted Bundy was an average guy from a non-obvious background?? He was almost a direct duplicate of my own husband! (I'm speaking looks description and line of work =). Charles Manson (maybe you know all these stories), was a real gold mine for insight into an evil psyche. There were extensive interviews with him. Man, this guy was obviously possessed, and to this day does not regret a single thing he did. And yet you feel sorry for the guy. (Sort of). Man was his life hard!

This is what I'm talking about, though. MAKE THE VILLAIN RELATABLE. I've said this before, and maybe I've even mentioned the advice I've heard from other authors, that you start with two characters--the good guy and the bad guy--and then switch rolls and see what happens. See if they're really fleshed out and have distinct points of view that make them choose to be the way that they are. They both have to draw you in. You have to like them, even. Evil or not, they're still your babies. Am I right?

But back to Manson. This guy had a plan. He created a whole routine to desensitize his so-called family members. He'd go through rituals with them each and every day. Fulfilling their need of family connection, giving them the attention they needed, the 'love', and in turn building himself up in their estimation. He was the beginning and the end to them. He'd then erase their idea of right and wrong. Delete their brain knowledge (put them on drugs so this was much easier), and then download his own ideas. (This is how Satan works, btw, for all you religists out there).

And once he did that?

He retrained them. Turned them into killing machines. And JUSTIFIED their actions.

Of course there was a reason people! He had a goal. Just like good people, bad people have goals, too. And to them they are GOOD goals.

Yes. Nuts. But, too true.

So, creepy as it was to watch parts of this--very disturbing--it was also educational and great fodder for my own villain.

Now with my research underway and almost complete, I have juicier details to make my world a real world. And ways to really hit home with readers of all varieties.

Now let's hear from you. What has helped you create that super-fantastic-awesome character? Do you have a favorite way to research?

Let me know!

And thanks again for dropping by!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Word Crimes

Two posts in one week?? Is it the Apocalypse? Or doughnut day?

Let's make up for last week, eh? Just something simple, because I can't have brains exploding all over the place. That's only good for Zombies. Maybe snakes. And little brothers.

Weird Al says it best, I think, when he says:

Quit committing those word crimes!

Here you goeth:


Monday, July 14, 2014

Testing testing...commiting

Just checking in. I realize I didn't write a post last week like I promised myself. I had the perfect idea for a post and the thought left me.

Let's instead talk about where you find your inspiration...

I've been having odd bits of inspiration come of late. Awesome bits that add more personality to my characters or intensity to my story line. They usually come when I'm watching movies, or reading. Sometimes they pop into my head randomly. The point is that if I'm dragging my feet about a certain section of my book, no inspiration comes unless I really put forth the effort. I have to tell myself that I'm going to do it, and you'd be amazed at how fast the inspiration comes as soon as I decide to commit.

Talk about your life lessons =).

Have you noticed that?

Procrastination kills dreams. If you don't take that step, even if it's hard or boring, you won't accomplish a thing. But things come easier than we think if we just commit.

So, if you're staring at your computer screen and nothing is coming, ask yourself if you're really trying? Are you committed?

See? I wrote a post and I wasn't even ready for it=)

Today I'm a pantser.

T
Take a step into the dark before you can see the light...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

CONTACT

Image from: http://popcultureninja.com/2010/06/20/summer-flashback-1997-contact/

Today I watched an oldie, but goodie with my daughter who I decided is finally old enough to understand the concepts presented by CONTACT. This film happens to be a favorite of mine and has some great lessons of writing in it. Now, I haven't read the book, perhaps I should, but I believe we can learn as much from screen plays as novels. At least the lessons I'm pointing in this post.

The premise for those unfamiliar with this movie is that MC, Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway (played by Jodie Foster), is a scientist who lost both parents early in life and is driven to find life outside the boundaries of our planet. She 'listens for little green men'--I believe--in hopes that she can one day contact her parents. Or perhaps just to find more. A purpose to this crazy existence we call life.

I could go through all the aspects of why this a great piece of science fiction, pointing out that Ellie was thwarted in every possible moment in her pursuit of truth, creating awesome drama. Or that she has a clear problem or desire that she's driven to master. But the thing I want to point out today are some of the things I strive to do in my own writing. Things I hope every writer tries to do, or would try to do.

The writer, Carl Sagan, did a wonderful job creating a story line that made people not only think, but also inflict upon us the stewardship we have as a people to work together. There are two clear groups of people in this story. The Scientist/Atheist and the Christian. Ellie struggles with the idea that there is a God. She doesn't have a working knowledge of how Faith works. Everything must be proven to her scientifically for her to believe it. A common concept with some groups of people. On the other side is her friend Palmer Joss. He is religious and has opposite goals, yet they are drawn together. They love each other despite their obvious differences. Perhaps she finds in him what she herself is lacking. Opposite attracting once more =)

So begins Ellie's journey. She ends up accomplishing her goal, only to find that she can provide no proof of her discoveries. This experience--for the first time in her life--provokes her to really contemplate the idea Faith. She knows beyond a doubt and cannot deny what she's seen, yet she cannot prove it. And in the end, she won't deny it. She will have faith. And Palmer stands by her side. He doesn't need her to prove anything to him because he knows what she's learned through her experience. He's empathetic. And also for the first time, it doesn't matter that she does prove it to people (my own thoughts).

Not only do we as observers of this story get taken on an emotional, relatable roller coaster, but we see how these characters can and do come together on equal ground, a lesson everyone in society is want to learn. It opens us up to different points of view, makes us think as well as feel.

The science in this story may out date itself, but the human struggle never will. I can watch this movie year after year and each time I'm pained with the struggle Ellie faces. I don't believe the same way she does, yet I'm driven to care for her. I want her to achieve her goals because she is a likeable character.

Have you seen this movie? What did you think? What lessons did you learn from it? Did you read the book? What differences are there between movie and book?

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Coming alive

So, I'm back from my hiatus. Health in check. Life in check. Things are great and I'm almost done with my final round of edits on my current project I will now entitle DEAD LIBRARY. And I realized something.

Amidst my torpidity.

I better start blogging!

You know those pesky agents will be checking up on every aspect of your life they can get their eyes on. (I say this with a smile, at least). So, I best be giving them something. A little bit here, there, and steadily.

You know what else? I think I'm the wrong kind of person to blog. I'll do it anyway, don't get me wrong. But I realized long ago what makes a great blogger and I don't have it.

For one, you must be bubbly, or at the very least interesting. I'm not sure I'm either. But again, I'll try. People also like to live vicariously through the bloggers they follow. So, they must be doing things. Exciting things. This can be mean that they've found a molecule of success. Or they travel (I did go to DC, will be going to Mt Rushmore and in a few months EUROPE baby!). Maybe the blogger/writer is just so darn cute you can't stay away from them (I could list a couple of writers like that). Or maybe they speak their mind in such a way as to offend and yet you can't help stick with them because they are so dang brave (and you secretly agree with what they're saying).

I'm too scared to offend people. I tried it once. Didn't like it. So, I'll stick with just being myself.

Or maybe they like bacon so much that it's become an obsession. And we like people who are obsessed about something. It means they've found that secret meaning of life. (Who knew it was bacon?)

So, if you're looking for risque speeches or being dominated by fluffy kitten pattering you won't find it here. You'll find common sense from my point of view. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm smarter than I/you think. Eh?

Also, people like blog posts with pictures. Here you go:

This picture is mine. I made it. I may have posted it on theartsideofme.blogspot.com.


PS. I WILL BE PUBLISHED SOON.

As soon as I find that one awesome agent that sees something in my shiny new product. You're out there somewhere. I'm looking... Maybe I should print out a sign--attached to my shirt--that says: Will buy you lunch? Hmmm?


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Winner!

As promised, I'm announcing the winner of the MIND GAMES contest today. The winner is RU.

Please email me at kprwrite at hotmail dot com with your address so I can get that book off to you. Thanks for commenting!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CONTEST!! Win MIND GAMES by Kiersten White.

JUST ONE MORE DAY PEEPS!
CONTEST CONTEST CONTEST CONTEST!!!!

Hows about a contest to win this little lovely? I realize after I posted that 'fake' contest that I probably teed off a lot of people. =) It's what I do best. So, let's do it for real now, shall we?

I'm going to do this the old fashioned way (since I'm not contest-savvy like so many of you are. Yet). 

 Here's what you have to do to be entered to win:
  1. Leave a comment telling me why you want to read this book, and one fun thing you did with or for someone you love, preferably a sister (since this book is about sisters)
  2. Must be a follower.
  3. You can earn extra entries if you send people my way, Post, Tweet, Facebook. Must include links.


YEAH! Let the party begin. You'll have 'til this time next week, Wednesday,  July 24th. For Utahns, we'll call this a Pioneer Day celebratory giveaway. Winners will be announced the following day.

Thanks!