On Research For Writing Teen Science Fiction, by Sam Hawksmoor
The best thing about writing is often the research and it can be heartbreaking how little of it makes its way into the book you are writing. Of course, you can get side-tracked by research. There’s always so much more you could read about a subject but there’s that voice at the back of the class saying ‘BORING!’ So you have to remember that the action must move on. Teens are impatient for the next hill to climb, the next piece of action with a short pause for a kiss before that bullet ricochets off the bed and they jump out of the window…
I’ve been doing research for a virus novel I’ve been writing on and off for a while: how the virus spreads, how quickly it can kill, who is the most vulnerable and how you can prevent getting it. There’s a lot of stuff I could get in but it remains on the cutting room floor. Of course, I left all the icky bits in. That’s important. There’s nothing like a virus that boils your lungs to gross someone out.
I researched teleportation for The Repossession. I felt I really had to have Marshall (the ex-scientist) explain stuff. I just didn’t want my characters to accept it as fact and move on. Too often you see this in teen fiction or movies. Here was an opportunity to work with one of the characters who had been developing trans-matter and been burned badly by it. I had these kids who were going to be volunteers, whether they liked it or not, and I wanted to play with the consequences and morals of science as much as the technology.
You don’t have to knock a reader over the head with facts but a small pause to reflect on how things work will appeal to some readers and show them a little respect. Others will skip over this to the next bit. (In the same way I skipped over all those awful poems and songs in The Hobbit.)
I’ve been working on a time travel novel too. The great thing is what you learn in the research process. Perhaps you can’t use it in the novel you are writing but it can spark more ideas for later. No research is ever wasted, no matter how trivial and there is nothing worse than getting it wrong.
Although many readers might not know (or care) about particular details, your duty as a writer is to get them right.
Sam Hawksmoor’s author website: www.samhawksmoor.com
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