Monday, November 18, 2013

Craft Chat: Researching Your Fiction

I'm deep in the muck of a new manuscript. I KNOW my protagonist and, on my best days, really hear his voice in my head. The imaginary people and places splash onto the page sometimes faster than I can type. What gets me stuck? FACTS!

I discovered when I was writing THE SOUND OF LETTING GO that there was a LOT I didn't know about trumpets, Youth Orchestras, and especially autism. To write the best work of FICTION I could manage, I needed information to be sure my scenarios were plausible, my characterizations and descriptions authentic. What did I do?
  • PRIMARY RESEARCH: Sought out and interviewed teen trumpet prodigies, psychiatrists and psychologists who treated people with autism in residential settings, parents and siblings of teens on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum.
  • READING: I read non-fiction books about autism, musical prodigies, family therapy strategies. I read fiction about and by folks on the autism spectrum.
  • ONLINE EXPLORATION: I scoured the Autism Speaks and Autism Society websites, connected with some amazing people, including the director of the Sibling Support Project.
  • VERIFICATION: I had my manuscript vetted by readers who worked in the autism field to make sure my finished product held up.
In the service of my new w-I-p, I am now interviewing police officers, and reading a lot about all kinds of things (secret for now). Although it takes time and effort, in the end, having a solid grasp of the facts frees me to write my very best fiction.

For a wonderful and poetic musing on this topic, check out Caroline Starr Rose's ODE TO A RESEARCH NOTEBOOK here!

2 comments:

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Oh, I love this Stasia! It fascinates me how much behind the scenes work goes into books. And now you've got me thinking about some sort of blog link up... :)

Jane Ward said...

I've been mulling over a novel for a while now, and I'm realizing how much research is going to have to come before what I think of as "the fun part." Do you enjoy the research, or do you see it more as a hurdle to get over on the way to knowing your characters better?