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Research, Research, Research

November 15, 2017

Do writers start out writing cold, with nothing in their skill-set than personal experience? Sometimes. But those tend to be content driven, not research driven. There is no good one way to start writing. For instance, I hate outlining my novels in advance. I like to be surprised at the middle and ending just as much as the reader. So what does that mean?

 

Some say that when you write, you should write what you know. When I was in graduate school, I had to learn new software programs to survive. But at the end of those classes, I had those computer programs in my writing toolbox. There is something to be said for personal experience, but those programs were a tool I used to format information for my classes. Unlike algebra in High School, I found the programs I learned useful after I graduated.

 

My background and expertise is technical in nature. When I worked for NORAD, I was once assigned as an incident investigator. When a problem occurred between NORAD and the FAA, I'd investigate it using multiple tools such as voice recordings, computer displays and printouts, action logs and controller/technician logs. All this information had to be gathered in one place and analyzed. Sometimes it took days to get to a finding, sometimes one day. I was once an Air Defense expert back in the day, so that was what I knew.

 

How useful is my background in writing science fiction? Well, besides being an Air Defense expert at one point. I was also what some people call a "Spook." Spooks had less glamorous names for what we did in the shadows. That is neither here nor there, but it does give another clue to why I write science fiction. Most of the stuff I did in real life was in the realm of science fiction. So, how useful is that knowledge I can't talk about . . . ever?

 

The most valuable skill I learned in college and in the Air Force was how to research. Some people think research is an eight-letter word. (two four-letter words put together). But I love to research and maybe you do too. I do research to make sure my characters as authentic as possible.

 

If my character rides a horse, I research horse parts and care of a horse by an owner. If my character carries a sword and fights on his or her horse, I research riding techniques in battle and the names of the moves. If my character fights with a sword on foot (sometimes), I research types of swords and daggers. What blade is the easiest to carry? What blade is easiest to carry and may be drwn while riding? What are the sword-fighting terms and when should I use them. What style of swordplay is my character best at? So I research styles of sword-fighting. If my character wears armor, what style and if he or she rides, what is the best weight for the armor my character wears? What parts of the body does it cover? Does my horde wear armor? What armor does my rider place on the horse. All these are topics for research.

 

I love reading good science fiction. Some of the modern sci-fi writers are good, some are not. I have my favorite writers which I'll talk about later. By the way, if you look on Amazon, you can find a lot of sci-fi books for world-building, sword-fighting, monster development, and much more. Thanks for reading. Comments are helpful so do so. <><

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© David Roebke 2018