When in writing, they say to “write what you know.” Personally I don’t always find that to be true, let alone right. To limit yourself to writing a story using only the knowledge you know, no matter how knowledgeable you are, can be a narrow path to travel down. That’s why sometimes, when creating a story, it’s best to step out of your mind and sought out external resources; whether intentionally searched for or not. It’s all about the drive of wonder and the desire to enhance, and it oftentimes leads writers down a journey of a different kind.
Research is more often than not a necessary step to take when writing a story. The reasoning for doing so may vary. It could be that the story takes place in a particular location they have never been to before and need to learn as much about that place to really capture it in their writing. Perhaps the story takes place in a particular era- likely one they weren’t alive for- and need to research what it was like for people during that time. Maybe the writer is describing a scene where a character is eating a particular food and they need to eat it themselves in order to accurately describe the taste and texture of it. It is possible that the character, for some reason, has to go skydiving at one point and in order to describe the feeling of what it’s like to jump from an airplane and fall who knows how many feet to earth, the writer decides to go and experiences it for themselves. The reasons are multiple, but I think you get my point.
When I was doing research for A Moment’s Worth, I had gone to San Francisco for a day and went to all the locations Yvonne and Justin went to in Chapter 9. I took note of the people at the farmer’s market, the interactions amongst them, the produce that was being sold, the narrow streets of Chinatown, and the items on the menu they ordered from at the Chinatown Restaurant. Of course, there were certain elements that were completely fictional, but by actually going to that place and experiencing the energy and activity my characters experienced, as a result, I was able to come up with creations of my own that reflected the environment I was in.
But sometimes, external elements to incorporate into a story is not always intentionally sought out for. Sometimes, it comes to you in sparks of inspiration. Maybe you’re overhearing a conversation between two people you don’t know and the context of it inspires you to incorporate a similar conversation in your story. Perhaps you tumble across a really interesting fact about something that you didn’t know before and you find it inspiring enough to include in the narrative. Say you’re observing someone’s posture or facial features when they are expressing a certain emotion and it’s so particular, you weave it into the mannerisms of one of your characters. It could be that you came across a place that you find so intriguing, you simply must write something about it. The list of possibilities, of course, goes on.
Already there have been sparks of inspiration that have wound up as part of the plot of the novel I’m writing now. An example is a thought one of my characters makes (though I’m not going to disclose what it was about) that was inspired by something from a speech I heard made by a boy many years ago. It was a speech that was particularly resonating with me, not only because of its unintended spark of inspiration, but also because the speech ended with a question, leaving the audience thinking about what he said.
Of the examples that I named- for both research and inspiration, hypothetical situations and examples from my experience- can easily apply to other instances as well, and not always in the case of writing a novel. In the case of research, Gene Luen Yang’s two-part graphic novel, Boxers & Saints, probably wouldn’t be as detailed and specific to the era and location as it is if he hadn’t taken that research trip he made to China. In the forum of inspiration, Hayao Miyazaki likely wouldn’t have made his film “Spirited Away” as effective as it is if he had never met his friend’s then ten-year-old daughter.
In the end though, regardless of how you pulled your external sources, whether by research or inspiration, it’s wise to see how valuable it is to look out and openly into the world, and not always rely on what you know. As a result, not only is your story more enhanced and rich with substance, but you also see how you as a person are also a little bit smarter.
A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 12 reviews so I’m already just past the halfway point to my goal). Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, please go vote on whether or not you would like for my second novel to be available in print or not. This poll will go on until the time comes to start the publishing process, so the more input on this decision, the better.