How does a writer immerse a reader into their story? Whether the backdrop’s Victorian England or contemporary Montana, pathways arise through scenery details and responses specific to each character. Dialect, weather, cultural nuances, and tools or technologies expedite the journey.
My stories unfold with scenes in the heroine, hero, or villain’s point of view. The process begins by creating backstory and profiles to distinguish mannerisms and speech patterns of each character. Next, I write the rough draft of the story and then I insert factual tidbits that I’ve researched to deepen the POV.
Why do I invest the additional research time? The wake-up call struck while I attended a class on police procedures, Former officer, M.A. Taylor, pantomimed throwing a book against the wall after reading a passage where a hero took the safety off his revolver—an impossibility known to any gun aficionado.
I’m willing to pick up a phone or email organizations to answer questions or qualify facts not available online. I’ve spoken to the nicest people at a Texas weather station, a railroad, and the Ducks Unlimited office in Montana. Prior to calling, I write out precise questions and preface the call asking if the specialist has time to help me. These experts consistently thank me for caring about accuracy.
I’ve met miniature horse enthusiasts on Facebook who shared stories. I learned that minis are stubborn, protective, and respond well to requests, not orders. Tom Smittle, pictured below, from the Oglala Lakota tribe, shared examples of the teasing humor he and his friends enjoy. I asked him to be a sensitivity reader and received knowledge and friendship. His horsemanship suggestions have made me a better rider.
Here’s a trick I use to put these elements together. Transposing a scene or dialogue from inside my head to a clear version on the page takes diligent, fact-finding effort. I compose my manuscript on a laptop attached to a large monitor. Beside it sits an old laptop for doing research while I edit. I create a ‘Research’ document for each story, copy text from the web site, and paste it into groups for further referencing. My second book, Torn by Vengeance, contained sections on legal terms, doctor’s slang, Montana duck habitat, and the miniature horses. My son downloaded a free program, Synergy, which allows me to move my mouse between the laptops and monitors.
If I mistakenly hit a corrupt site while searching the internet, the separation between the two computers prevents a virus from reaching the one containing my manuscript. Hearing a horror story from a well-known author influenced the extra measure, along with storage in the cloud.
Beta readers and my editor provide key feedback, but it’s my name printed on the book cover. I may utilize a fraction of the details I unearth, but I’ll keep researching to create ‘in the moment’ scenes for my readers. I hope these hints strengthen your writing and give all the wonderful readers an idea of the process.
May February find you and yours safe, healthy, and looking forward to a special Valentine’s Day!