I continue to be amazed by the wonders right in my back yard – or front yard, as it would be, in this case. Of course, you assume I’m talking about the majestic volcanic mountain ranges and creosote-studded rolling hills that surround the place I call home. Yes. And no. I’m also talking about something else. Something with a pulse.
Last weekend, I had the chance to take another quad trip into the Galiuro Mountains with hubby, guided by some of the most authentic, down-to-Earth, good people you’ll ever meet (many of whom we met for the first time, actually). Yes, it’s their pulse that has me so energized.
This is the reason I’ve always been so drawn to small-town living. Authenticity. These are real people. With real jobs. With real problems. With real heart. With real goodness.
If you were to peel away their outer layers, you’d find exactly the same thing on the inside: Kindness. Goodness. Authenticity. And a willingness to literally share the shirt off their backs (hubby and I were ill-prepared, not realizing we would be in the mountains into the cooold night, so we both returned, adorned with the gifts of once-strangers: gloves, jackets, bandanas … um, and beer … Dearest husband ran out of that, too. I was the designated water guzzler.)
It all started at the unofficial watering hole: the local lumber store off of Main Street. The ATVs lined up along the sharply banked, pot-hole pitted road. The motors purred and the street was illuminated from the sun glinting off of the yellows, blues, reds, and greens of quad fenders. That’s where it all began.
But where it ended … it ended under a bright three-quarter moon about 14 miles away, eight hours later, at the Bluebird Mine nestled into the mountains and perched over our tough old, once-mining town itself … perched above the lumberyard, too – like a bluebird keeping watch.
For Writers: I’m a firm believer that research breeds authenticity in writing. Yes, even fiction writing. What’s more, the more creative you are with your research, the more creative and authentic your story will be.
Sure, you can consult the standard reference books, academic studies, and newspaper/magazine articles; you should, probably. But consider these creative research options:
- Field trips to study setting
- Interviews with local residents to understand customs
- Hands-on apprenticeships to learn the trade of your characters
- Short “pass-fail” community college classes about topics helpful to your story
- Interviews and visits with practitioners to understand psychological and physical impairments that might plague your characters
- Museum and historical society visits
- Online support groups for people suffering various afflictions/situations (tapping into the real emotions of real people who might be living some aspects of the story you’re trying to tell)
- Social media (why not take advantage of the expertise offered by those you’ve met online through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn)
This type of research is what’s going to make your novel authentic: your ability to step into the shoes of your characters, breathe their breaths, think their thoughts, react the way they would in particular situations. And the only way to do that is by doing your homework. Do the research, because your readers will be able to smell a fake.
When you begin a new work-in-progress, how do you go about finding your authentic voice? Authentic characters? Authentic setting?