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Being An Earnest Researcher

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 15, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest Researcher by J.H. Bogran

The truth is that you never know who may end up reading the works you publish, so the best course of action is to be sure of what you write is accurate.

Last year I was reading a story where the main character took his toddler to Disney World and made a point of mentioning the kid had enjoyed a particular attraction. I was immediately surprised because when I took my own kid to that same attraction, he cried his heart out; he freaked out in the dark environment. After calming my five-year-old I took a closer look at the program and indeed it had a warning stating the attraction may be frightening for small children. So, don’t ask me what happened in the immediate chapters because I fumed about the tiny little thing for the next following pages of the novel.                  JH Bogran cover

For my novel in Spanish—Heredero del Mal or Heir of Evil—I had short prologue where I show Adolph Hitler smoking a cigar when it’s a well-known fact that he didn’t smoke nor drink. A keen observer brought this fact to my attention just before the book went into print. After a self-imposed and much deserved slap on the face I went to correct that detail.

There are other examples like people telling they made sure the safety is on when they have a revolver. Revolvers, wheel-guns, six-shooters, whatever you want to call them, don’t sport a safety. They are very secure weapons because they are reliable, durable, and overall very cool. A revolver plays a very important part during the climax of my novel Treasure Hunt.

K. L. (Karen) Dionne wrote an ecological thriller titled Boiling Point. The climax was atop an erupting volcano. She had the opportunity to travel down to Chile and visit the Chaiten Volcano there. She saw the aftermath, the ashes, smelled the sulfur, and heard the chirping birds or the lack of them. It was an eye opener experience for her and Boiling Point is a much better book because of it. Karen wrote a bit about her adventure in Chile.

Of course, not everybody is lucky enough to visit intended locations. However, you can contact people who have been there, get maps, or read the almanac.

The internet is one of my most valuable tools for research. One bit of advice, though, is don’t believe all you read online; search for secondary confirmation. Another fabulous research tool is a questionnaire. Search through your network of friends—remember Six Degrees of Separation? It works—and find a person in the profession or field that you plan to write about. People generally like to talk about their day job so it’s not like pulling teeth.

When it comes to names, they must also be researched thoroughly. My main character in The Assassin’s Mistress uses the alias of Robert I. Prescott, or R.I.P. His thinking is that once he takes a contract, his target goes to Rest in Peace. My research struck gold when I discovered the French name Chantal means “stone.” I had just found my female lead character and Robert’s love interest’s name.

In the end, the knowledge the author acquires before the final draft goes great lengths to improve the story. The details seep through the page and they even help with the suspension of disbelief. If you read all the way to the end of this post, I guess you know what my favorite part of penning a new novel is.

JH Bogran Author

Author Bio and Links:

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.

Website at: http://www.jhbogran.net
Blog: http://www.thetaleweaver.blogspt.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jhbogran
Twitter: @JHBogran

Blurb for The Assassin’s Mistress

A random encounter leads to deception, love and murder. While vacationing at a ski resort, professional hitman Robert Prescott meets a strange and beautiful woman. They discover passion and embark into a dangerous game hiding their relationship from her powerful husband. Then a further twist of fate makes Robert’s occupation collide with his new found love.

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007BOC0OW

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10 Responses to “Being An Earnest Researcher”

  1. This is a great post from J.H. Bogran, Nancy! I made a whopper of a mistake in one of my mysteries, but a keen-eyed copy editor caught it. I placed a public parking garage right off Collins Ave in South Beach and I gave the wrong side street. It’s funny, because I use that parking garage every time I visit South Beach and I was “sure” I knew what corner it was at…I was so wrong! I’m glad I had a chance to correct it before it went to print.

  2. Yes, Mary, you’re lucky you were able to make that correction before the book went to print. The warning to verify Internet resources is important, too. I use info from the Net all the time in my research.

  3. Great post. Even the smallest inaccuracy can really pull a reader out of the story. I had that happen while I was reading a book just recently. It was a little detail, not even important to the story, but all I could think of was “that can’t happen.” No, it wasn’t a fantasy detail, or something that a reader would normally be asked to stretch their imagination for. It was a real life fact, and it wouldn’t happen and that almost spoiled everything for me. I did finally force myself to forget that silly inaccuracy and go on, but it bothers me still. LOL

  4. Tami, that’s annoying when it happens, isn’t it? Little things like that pull you out of the story. However, writers are human and often we miss things that may or may not have to do with our research. Either way, I appreciate hearing from readers about errors they detect in case I have a chance to fix them.

  5. jhbogran said

    @Mary: Glad you liked the post. Research is fun, God knows I like it, but one needs to be careful.

    @Tami: I just remembered a couple of arguments we had over Treasure Hunt, I won the one that people were allowed to smoke on the plane back in the 70’s. But I lost the other argument, that I can’t seem to remember. Don’t know why. :-)

    @Nancy: Thank you for this opportunity. I had fun.

  6. Jan Washburn said

    I read a favorite boo-boo years ago. The book was a romance written by a very popular romance writer and set in the Florida Keys. The characters were discussing the fact that a hurricane might head their way. The heroine says, “Don’t worry. We’ll just go down in the storm cellar.” Apparently the author was confusing Key West with Dorothy’s Kansas. If you are not familiar with South Florida and the Keys, when you’re digging, you don’t have to go far before you hit water. The heroine would have to tread water in her storm cellar.

  7. Haha, Jan, that’s a good one! We don’t have basements either in South Florida. “Closing the shutters” would have been a more appropriate action.

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