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This book caught me off-guard. I was expecting a historical tale about a family that lived on the Mississippi River. What I discovered was the devastating story of Georgia Tann’s Tennessee Children’s Home Society and the baby/child trafficking that was so long hidden from the public.

The part about Georgia Tann and her baby business is true. The story itself is a riveting revelation of the terror and helplessness these children could have gone through as they were betrayed into Georgia Tann’s clutches.

The story of the family at the center of the book moves from freedom and happiness to fear, horror and separation. It’s a page-turner in a dark world, and to me, the realization that similar horrors happened to hundreds of children, made it even darker.

I followed up this audio book with an internet search of Georgia Tann and her infamous life, and was stunned by the facts. Some evils take a long time to be uncovered and stopped.

Kudos to Lisa Wingate for finding this story, digging up the facts, and passing them along to fiction readers. A chilling but fascinating read.

Lisa Wingate

 

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When I began writing, I came across the statement: “Write what you know.” Wise, but severely limiting if you’ve led a sheltered life. I reversed the adage to read, “Know what you write.” Even if I don’t know something from firsthand knowledge or experience, I can find out about it.

Research is not just for historical works. Even the simplest contemporary story begs those fascinating details and correct terminology. For example, my husband and I used to ride a 1977 Honda Goldwing, but I had to check whether the headlight was automatic or manual before I sent my character through a covered bridge. A mechanic friend told me that our Goldwing was called a “shovel head.” I used that for effect.Honda 77 Scott Francis writes, “Just because you’re writing fiction, it doesn’t give you license to make everything up.”

 

 

photo-1What’s our best source for research? Depends on what we’re looking for. The basic understanding for my stories is derived from books, but when it comes to filling in details or answering specific questions, I use the internet. How far can an average man walk in a day? How far could a horse go, and how fast? Where did the railways run? What points of interest existed in St. Petersburg in 1914? What do they call streets and avenues in China? I had endless questions and found many answers on Google.

Photo Credit Gerald Hildebrand. Appeared in Witness Magazine July 2004.

Photo Credit Gerald Hildebrand. Appeared in Witness Magazine July 2004.

But the best source of research is people. Who lives in the place you’re writing about? Who has memories about historic events? These are the people who will help us make our stories credible, and usually they are more than willing to share their knowledge/experience.

How do we go about researching? Research is an ongoing, step-by-step process. We can’t know all the questions before we get into the story. They’ll keep coming up as we write.

 

 

 

Cautions:

  1. Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Nuff said.
  2. Sources won’t always agree. At times I’ve had four books open on my desk, each one touting a different “truth.” Then it’s up to me to decide on the most probable scenario.
  3. Research is for credibility, not to show off what we know. Only include what’s necessary.

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Hi Murray. Welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions for my readers and me.

Murray Pura image

Murray Pura was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just north of the Dakotas and Minnesota. His first novel was released in Toronto in 1988 and was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award. Since that time he has published ten more novels, two collections of short stories, and several nonfiction titles including the Zondervan books Rooted and Streams and the Baker devotional Majestic & Wild. He has been a finalist for several awards in the U.S. and Canada and in 2012 won the Word Award of Toronto for Best Historical Novel. Murray lives and writes in southwestern Alberta and is currently published by Barbour, Baker, Harper One, Zondervan, and Harvest House as well as several other publishing houses – he works with publishers in Canada, America, the UK, and Holland. His releases for 2013 include the novels: Ashton Park, The Rose of Lancaster County, A Road Called Love, Seven Oaks, The Painted Sky, Whispers of a New Dawn, Beneath the Dover Sky, The Name of the Hawk, and An Amish Family Christmas. His diverse writing spans many genres including: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, romance, adventure, western, suspense, fantasy, Amish, and inspirational. Most of his work is available in ebook format for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook as well as in paperback.

Janice:  Murray, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What inspired you?
MURRAY: Quite truthfully I wrote my first stories when I was about nine, made covers for them after I stapled the index cards together, and gave them to Mom to read. And I kept doing this right through my teen years, writing my first 100 page novel called The Quiet Man when I was 13 and my first 200 page novel Bravest of the Brave when I was 14. I remember writing a parody of our teachers in high school which went the rounds through all the classes, smuggled under jackets and in lunch bags and backpacks – that I’m alive today and wasn’t expelled or executed is a tribute to the espionage skills of boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18. I was writing before I became a Christian and then I gave it all to God and he has continued to develop that passion in me. I guess just the telling of stories inspired and excited me.

Janice: Did you have a mentor who motivated you to keep working at it?
MURRAY: No, not at all. It was something I felt compelled to do from very early on. I just sat down and began to write. Perhaps favorite authors and ports motivated me the most.

Janice: What genres do you write and why?
MURRAY: I like romance because the love between a man and a woman is one of the most beautiful gifts God has given us. I like historical fiction because I like to go back in the past and tell stories set in different eras and centered around dramatic historical events – I like to ask the reader, “If you had been there then what would you have done?” I like contemporary fiction because I like to tell stories about who we are right now. I like to write inspirational fiction because I believe God and faith enter into everything even if sometimes we don’t see it clearly.

Janice: Where do your ideas come from?
MURRAY: Everyday life, the things you see and experience, travel, relationships, the books you read and the shows you watch, all things feed into the imagination.

Janice: How do you write? Do you have a specific place, time, method? Do you outline your stories?
MURRAY: I write anywhere and anytime using my laptop. I do have a preferred location by a large picture window that looks out over the trees and sky and creek but I can write in other locations. Any time of day works though it’s best to get started in the morning. There is a general outline, things that need to happen, places I need to go, people that need to be around. But I’m well aware that everything can change after you write that first page. Characters do different things than you imagined they would, new characters pop up, some plot ideas don’t work after a while so you jettison them. There’s a kind of ultimate destiny over everything that you plan for, and that’s supposed to rule, but the free will of the characters always brings in new scenes and new plot developments you didn’t count on. That’s when you feel like the story is writing itself and you’re simply the first writer that’s handy to pour itself through onto a WORD doc.

Janice: You’ve written both stand alones and series. Which do you prefer and why?
MURRAY: Series allow you to develop the characters much more and they allow you to tell a story in far more depth, that’s why I prefer series.

Janice:  I assume with so many projects on the go, you must work on multiple stories at the same time. How do you mentally move from one to the next?
MURRAY: You clear the decks between them, leave one where it is and go on to the next without bringing any baggage from the first with you. Generally having a short break between projects helps but once I’m into the new story that’s where my head space is and nowhere else. Giving each project a week to itself also helps.

Janice: What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you? And the most enjoyable?
MURRAY: Hardest: Tell yourself to sit down and get started each day. Most enjoyable: Love scenes.

Janice: Do you edit your own writing or do you have someone else do that?
MURRAY: I edit my own until the editor gets ahold of it at the publisher and starts to cut and paste.

Janice: Social Media have become a fact of life for writers. What kinds do you use and which do you find most effective?
MURRAY: Facebook and Goodreads and interviews on blog sites are the most effective for me. Especially when coupled with regular giveaways.

Janice: I’m sure you do a lot of research for your stories, in all genres. How do you research and how do you know you can trust the accuracy of your sources?
MURRAY: I use my extensive library and online sources. The only way to trust your sources is to choose reputable ones with reputable authors and researchers. In addition you must reference different sources against one another and see how similar the information is. A reference point of three different sources of information on a topic is an absolute minimum.

Janice: Have you ever collaborated on a writing project and if so, what tips do you have from that experience?
MURRAY: On one project my daughter wrote the poetry and I wrote the narrative for the story. It would have been much more challenging if we were working on the narrative simultaneously.

Janice: As busy as you are, how do you balance your writing life with your personal life?
MURRAY: Each day must have its rhythm. Exercise, prayer, spiritual reading, recreational reading, human interaction and relationships, meals. And the writing has to be treated as a job with a set goal of, say, 2000 words a day, 8 to 4 or 9 to 5, something established like that. It’s not a dreamy thing to write. It’s hard work like anything else that matters.

Janice: What are you currently reading? How do you choose books to read? Favorite authors?
MURRAY: I am reading several books at once: Stand Proud by Elmer Kelton; Penguin’s History of the World; The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers; Fighting the Flying Circus by Eddie Rickenbacker. I enjoy diversity and a mix of genres so long as the writing is good. Browsing stores or online helps me find new books. Favorite authors include poets like Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and John Milton; novelists like Ernest Hemingway and Alan Paton; spiritual writing by C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, and Eugene Peterson.

Janice: What interesting facts did you learn while writing your latest book?
MURRAY: How quickly the legal profession, medical profession, and the universities caved to the Nazi government in Germany from 1933 on. They had virtually no backbone at all. The churches fought back much harder. Yes, a number of them compromised their faith, but quite a number didn’t. They withstood the threats and intimidation much better than most other organized groups.

Janice: Do you have some tips for beginning / emerging writers?
MURRAY: Take every opportunity that comes your way to write. All the time I see people not writing because there’s not enough money in it, they think they don’t have the time, they say they can’t come up with ideas. You should start off by writing for the pleasure of writing. If you can’t find the time or ideas then change vocations. You need to make the time and coax those ideas out of the depths of your mind or you’ll never succeed as a writer.

Janice: Thanks very much for talking with us today. Blessings on your future writing.

Readers, check back next week for an overview of some of Murray Pura’s works.

Check out these sites to learn more about Murray and his writing (his website and Goodreads include extensive information about his titles):
Facebook Author Page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Murray-PuraWriting/125082457581805?ref=hl
Website:  www.murraypura.com
Goodreads Author Page:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4120927.Murray_Pura
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/myrrhh/

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This post is designed for “My Process Blog Hop” hosted by Travis Perry http://travissbigidea.blogspot.com/2014/03/sharing-my-writing-process-experiment.html, which I’ve joined with several other authors.

My Works-in-ProgressRiver 6

  1.  The project taking most of my focus right now is my historical novel Other Side of the River, which is coming out in installments—volumes—as a Kindle and Kobo read. Six volumes are out, three more to go. I wrote this story a couple of years ago, but am now dividing it into segments, each with its own sub-title.
  2.  On the organize-and-edit plate is my partially completed sequel to River.
  3.  I recently signed a contract to collaborate with a number of other authors on a historical series, but it hasn’t started yet. I have a Scrivener folder earmarked for this project with and filled with as much info as I can scrounge up without knowing the specifics.
  4.  Besides the historicals, I have a cozy mystery that’s been sitting impatiently on my computer, awaiting publication. I’m currently going through it with my local writing group and appreciate their critique.
  5.  My blogsite is another project that’s always underway. Until late last fall, www.janicedick.com was a wasteland hardly anyone ever ventured into. However, due to a push from my publisher, I’ve been putting more time, energy and creativity into my site, with positive results.
  6.   Recently, thoughts came to mind for another historical series. I’ve been planting seeds for this story in my Scrivener folders, and have experienced some sleepless nights thinking about all the elements that need to be figured out.

How Does My Work Differ from Others in its Genre?

My published historicals—Calm Before the Storm, Eye of the Storm and Out of the Storm—are based on family history from the Russian Revolution era, so I have access to family documents, letters, diagrams, maps and drawings, as well as incidents and themes that spark the writing.

My current historicals loosely follow the real experiences of a young man in Manchuria who finds himself and his family caught in a country in the midst of drastic change—for the worse. Truth is stranger than fiction, so I use fictionalize the truth to fit it into the required novel elements. I think this true personal angle adds a unique perspective to the books.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I grew up hearing stories of times in southern Russia, a once-bountiful land spoiled by war and political greed (sound familiar?). The tales teased my imagination, as did reading classics like War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, etc.; and watching movies like Nicholas and Alexandra. When I came upon the documentation mentioned earlier, I felt the time had come to convey these stories of faith under pressure in story form, because that’s how some of us learn best.

My contemporary cozy is a fun attempt at mystery writing, because I love to read mysteries, especially gentle ones.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

Some days I wish I knew. I long ago switched from pen and paper to keyboard, whether for better or worse. I’m always fighting with my internal editor, since I am (she is) somewhat OCD, but I take comfort in the fact that there is no right way to write.

I need an outline, a general idea of how the story will be set out. It may not follow the outline, but I need a realistic goal. If I don’t have that, I feel I waste a lot of time writing things that will never fit.

I use Scrivener to write my books, so I begin by filling Research files, Character and Setting Templates. There will always be more research to do as I go along, and many adjustments, but I need to start by knowing something about the time, place, political situation, world events, etc. I have to find the mood of the piece.

There are numerous rewrites and edits, the earlier ones resembling a bland soup where I almost throw it down the drain, only to realize that this has happened before and will eventually work out. What’s required is a lot of muddling, organizing, messing around with index cards and lists and story/character arcs. Then a printout.

Then it’s back to the grind of re-reading and editing, going through the manuscript many times with a specific goal each time: character arcs, spicing up word usage, literary devices and symbols, consistency of facts, and so on. And eventually I have something I feel good about. Then more polish, and deciding when it’s done.

Why do I keep doing this day after day? Because I can’t not do it. My name is Janice and I’m a writer.

 

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When I present a talk on novel writing, I often ask the audience for their input on the basic elements of fiction, and they come up with several immediately: plot, setting and character.

Plot, according to James Scott Bell in his excellent how-to book Plot & Structure, is:

“1. A small piece of ground, generally used for burying dead people, including writers. 2. A plan, as for designing a building or novel.”

Plot is what happens in our stories:  the beginning, the middle and the end; with a story arc that takes the reader from one part to the next with compelling situations.

Of course, every story happens somewhere, so setting is essential to story. Characters should not interact in empty space without background or props…or reality. Setting takes us from the details of a room to the description of a village, city or fantastic new universe. It’s up to us to choose the setting, as long as we make it believable and stick to the rules we set up.

When something happens (plot) somewhere (setting), there are characters who experience it or tell about it. Perhaps we choose our characters to show various levels of society or to parallel a person we know or have heard about. There are countless reasons for character choice, but a writer must know the characters intimately in order for them to appear realistic and three-dimensional.

These are the three elements most often suggested by readers. Before reading further, see if you can list a few more…

Dialogue goes hand in hand with character. A novel needs dialogue to bring it to life, and a character needs distinctive dialogue in order to be memorable and unique. In brief, dialogue has two main functions: to move the plot forward and to reveal character.

Another element is point of view. Through whose eyes will we be telling the story? Will there be more than one viewpoint? Will it be first person (“I have always loved the colour red”) or third person (“She had always loved the colour red”)? The choice is up to us, but consistency is essential.

Another facet of novel building is voice. What’s the difference between voice and style? Check out the explanation on my blog: https://janicedick.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/its-who-you-are/.

It’s also important to include literary features in our writing. Similes, metaphors, personification, onomatopoeia and other such features give visual quality and richness to our work. We need to delve into the beauty of crafting words into phrases, sentences, paragraphs and scenes that will impact our readers.

Another aspect of crafting a novel is what I call PUG: punctuation, usage and grammar.  Check out English Grammar on Facebook at http://www.englishgrammar.org/or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrammarUpdates. If we want our manuscripts to make it to an editor’s desk, we must make sure we’ve done all the necessary work. If you aren’t a grammar guru, find someone who is.

I write historical novels, so research is the foundation to a credible story, but research is important in any and every story. If our details are accurate, then the reader can trust our content as well.

And don’t forget the polish. Every manuscript must be carefully and conscientiously checked for everything from the flow of the writing to PUG to the correct meaning of words (or their connotations) to the amount of white space on the page.

This is a summary of the various aspects of crafting a novel. In subsequent blogs I will expand on these features. Until then, happy writing.

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