The Devil’s In The Details II–Keep Research from Taking Over

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All right, we’ll do Research Part Duh, um Deux. Last time we talked about how research can take a book to the next level and I also vented about my personal bugaboos when it comes to guns. But here’s the thing, our target audience is likely to have bugaboos as well.

If we write military books, we want military people to like them. But, if we fail to research even basic stuff, we can turn them off. Same with thrillers, historical and even SCI-FI, etc.

Part of the reason for Star Trek’s success was that Roddenberry refused for ST technology to be made up willy-nilly. All technology and “science” had to be based around and grounded in some salient scientific theory….so you can thank Star Trek for automatic doors, cell phones, iPads, and science is still working on hot green women. Apparently there are only so many writers engineers can marry.

KIDDING! …I love you, Shawn. No I am not painting myself green…again.

But this is why my last post was called The DEVIL is in the Details. It’s a devil for sure. We want to have enough good detail that we don’t look like whackadoodles who just threw something together, but at the same time? People are there for a STORY, not Wikipedia.

As an example, I recently watched the Jack Reacher movie. Fun time. Now, there is NO WAY Reacher could have done some things (like the car chase scenes *rolls eyes*), BUT there were details that showed me Lee Child DID do his homework (preserving night-vision and I won’t spoil it). With a nice balance of great detail that was correct I could forgive and enjoy events that were highly improbable and simply enjoy the story for the brain candy it was.

So, some things to remember…

If We Wanted Reality We’d Watch the News

People DO look to fiction for escape. Our characters aren’t human, but need to be humanized. They do all the glorious things we’d do if we didn’t have laundry, a broken lawnmower and a day job, but we still need to be able to relate. Feel free to make your charters larger than life. THAT is what stories are for. Research just adds elements that can ground the reader and act as a counterpoint to all the surreality of the fiction.

Fiction Based on Reality Can Be Stronger

If we look to some of the greats, we see they based their “worlds” on reality. Tess Gerritson does this beautifully in her thrillers. If we look to some of the legends like Michael Crichton, we see WHY those stories had appeal. Dinosaurs remade from DNA captured by a primordial mosquito trapped in amber? Sentient nanites? Time travel through parallel multiverses? All ludicrous….yet plausible.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

We don’t need to always be accurate, but we can be plausible.

Detail Relates to Voice

Readers all have different preferences, which is great because writers all have different styles. Some readers (me) LOVE details. It’s one of the reasons I was a huge fan of Crichton and still love Dean Koontz. I adore detail expertly blended into the prose. Other readers? They hate it. They love bare bones and don’t care that they can read an entire book and never really know what the protagonist looks like. That gives me a twitch.

But this is why I hammer this point, “The world rewards finishers, not perfection.” We can finish a book, we cannot, however, make it perfect. Go to even the mega-authors and we will see one-star reviews. We can’t please everyone. Some people love quippy dialogue, others will hate it. Some love details, others want us to move forward or slow down or turn right.

Readers can be like driving with my mother in the back seat.

Some readers want blissfully unrealistic mind-candy. Others want complete plausibility. We see this in movies. My brother loooves uber-realistic gritty movies and doesn’t mind if everyone DIES at the end. These movies my brother adores make me want to drink heavily.

Everyone has different tastes, so what flavor are you offering?

Reality is Boring

Remember, people read for an escape. The characters and story are why they’re there. If they wanted pure facts, they could go read the FBI website or The NY Times. Thus, when I encourage research, it isn’t to bog your story down with being “real,” rather it’s so you can add elements that heighten “reality.”

If your character is in a prolonged gun battle, have him bring extra magazines or resort to taking weapons off bad guys. He can still be all Jason Statham, but just this tiny element of not having a “magic gun with limitless bullets” can help satisfy the picky reader.

One of my favorite examples is from the movie Safe House. Antagonist fires a gun next to rookie protagonist’s head to make a point. Protagonist then bleeds from the ear (likely a ruptured eardrum) and his hearing is severely impaired the next couple of scenes. But, he quickly recovers (which is very unlikely in reality), but it was a great detail that helped ground us, yet allowed all that followed which was highly “unrealistic” to feel more plausible. It’s an illusion, but an artfully crafted one (in my POV).

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

Remember Belief is ALREADY Suspended

I have to remind myself of this CONSTANTLY. Resist the urge to explain. The second a reader picks up any book, reality is already suspended. All we have to do is to maintain the illusion. Facts, research, details, can enhance the illusion or shatter it. We don’t have to explain String Theory to use wormholes or give the precise instructions of how one actually makes a bomb (in fact the latter might be quite irresponsible). But a handful of the right information does help.

One of my favorite movies is The Avengers. Talk about the opposite of reality. But we accept The Hulk was created via an accident with gamma radiation, that Thor is a being from another part of a multiverse, that Captain America is the product of genetic tinkering and that Iron Man is the future of robotic technology. This is the “reality-unreality” part that allows us to watch NYC be leveled and not think about when FEMA will arrive.

Thus, when we choose to use any detail or research, make sure it enhances the story. You really don’t have to explain everything. We accept vampires, parallel universes and Warp 10. Just roll with it and know that details add magic when used “properly.” And I type “properly” because again, detail is often related to voice. 

Yet, I will say, as someone who’s edited countless works (over the course of 14 years) and who also happens to be a factophile (yes, I just made that up), that world-building, detail, description can be DIVAS. Details have to be managed, told they are pretty and maybe even be given flowers once in a while because they LOVE to upstage the story and characters.

Our job is to manage them and help them do their job, not stage a story coup.

What are your thoughts? Do you love a lot of intricate detail? Hate it? Do you love reading books where you learn about something completely new? Do you have any tricks, suggestions, tactics or observations about how to keep details balanced? What are your preferences?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

Winner will be announced on the next blog.

Announcement: WANACon still has some seats available, but they are filling up FAST. Enjoy a conference from home. All the talent, recordings included, and cootie-free (except your own kids). We have classes on craft, business, publishing, self-publishing, agents, editors, you name it. Sign up HERE. Perfect Valentines gift with ZERO calories :).

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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  1. #1 by brendancole16 on February 3, 2014 - 10:58 am

    I was just thinking of some instances where details were overlooked. Your reference to the Jack Reacher movie made me think of Indiana Jones surviving an atomic bomb blast by hiding inside a refrigerator. Not well thought out and it ruined the movie for me.

    • #2 by Author Kristen Lamb on February 3, 2014 - 11:00 am

      Yeah, I think in The Digital Age this can be even more problematic because regular people are far more educated than they were even ten years ago.

  2. #3 by claudiadahinden on February 3, 2014 - 11:04 am

    Great post – I loooove good written details throuhg which I learn a lot about things I never imagined could interest me. One of my favorite writers concerning this (apart from your genious blog :-) ) is Dick Francis who wrote about 40 crime stories. They always involved horse racing, but he also had protagonists that were wine sellers, bankers, glass makers, painters…and so I gained insight in a world I didn’t know at all. As for me, I studied history and am thinking about writing a novel with a setting around the middle of the 19th century in Switzerland, and I love to read about the time and the completely different political environment, religious mindset and all. I think I’ll have to watch out not to overwhelm the reader with too much detail… :-)!

    • #4 by Melissa Lewicki on February 3, 2014 - 11:33 am

      I am so glad you mentioned Dick Francis. I’ve always thought that the diverse occupations of his protagonists were what made his books so interesting. And what a lot of research he (and his wife and his son) had to do!

      • #5 by claudiadahinden on February 4, 2014 - 3:41 am

        So cool I’m not the only one who appreciates this richness! And you are right: I think he had a lot of work to do before he could publish his stories. But it was so worth it!

  3. #6 by claudiadahinden on February 3, 2014 - 11:04 am

    *through* :-)

  4. #7 by daphodill on February 3, 2014 - 11:06 am

    Reblogged this on Daphodill's Garden and commented:
    Expertly explained, as always.

  5. #8 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on February 3, 2014 - 11:10 am

    Here is a funny post about the automatic doors on the Star Trek set.
    http://marilynhudsontucker.com/2012/08/30/the-night-i-met-gene-roddenberry-and-heard-spock-swear-on-film/

  6. #9 by Holly R. on February 3, 2014 - 11:10 am

    The Avengers, you say? One of your favorites, you say?
    Right, *now* I’m listening.

    As a matter of fact, one of my multiple favorite scenes in that movie is when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner meet and start talking “English” (“Is that what just happened?”). I’m no physicist… but I can, to a point, follow what they’re talking about, and that makes the scene for me.

    • #10 by ontyrepassages on February 3, 2014 - 11:33 am

      The brilliance of Josh Whedon. The man knows how to humanize techy stuff.

  7. #11 by Kathryn on February 3, 2014 - 11:20 am

    Thank you so much for this. Cecelia Holland opened my eyes to what could be done with historical fiction, rather than what had always been done before “The Firedrake.” BTF, every time a character walked into a room, the story stopped and all the characters played freeze tag while the writer showed off all the research he had done about dress, food, furnishings, architecture, etc, etc, of that whatever period. Deadly, I thought, even as a young teen. Now, as a writer of historical fiction myself, I finally had to quit my most recent critique group when the organizer not only couldn’t get his head around the idea that Bronze Age folks probably spoke in informal vernaculars and used contractions, puns and idiomatic phrases just like real people do today (not the same ones, of course), but was outright hostile to that idea: how dare these Old Time People not all talk like Shakespeare??!!

  8. #12 by aakemp on February 3, 2014 - 11:23 am

    I enjoy details when done well, as in Tolkien’s and Koontz’s books. They put in a lot of description but they’re woven into the plot so artfully that they enhance rather than detract from the experience. Unfortunately, in my own writing, I tend to lean more toward the “bare bones” writing, something like the late Mary Alice (aka Andre) Norton. Although I love her novels, they are somewhat lean and her characters rather one-dimensional. But her plots, action and voice all made up for that. A great era passed with her.

    • #13 by ontyrepassages on February 3, 2014 - 11:39 am

      I, too, tend towards “bare bones,” but I’ve learned to accept how I write early drafts and then mix in a bit more detail later. At the same time, “less detail” is my style, like yours, and so given time those who prefer that approach will gravitate towards you. The writer within is a mix of the influences that came before. Given that you recognize stylistic extremes I’ll bet your writing is a great mix. :)

      • #14 by Sinistra Inksteyne on February 4, 2014 - 1:55 am

        I tend to forget that readers can’t automatically see whatever I see – unless I put in enough detail to conjure the scene for them.

        • #15 by ontyrepassages on February 4, 2014 - 11:21 am

          Ah, yes. That’s also my biggest hurdle…the translation required between the picture in my head and the one I attempt to put into words. Believe me, I completely understand that. :)

          • #16 by Laurie A Will on February 4, 2014 - 11:55 am

            Yes, I think that’s one of every writer’s biggest challenges. How can we be sure that the words we put accurately depict what we see in our heads? I am always wondering how close the words I write are to the picture in my head.

            • #17 by ontyrepassages on February 4, 2014 - 12:35 pm

              I know what you mean, Laurie. No matter what I’ve written I see the images that originated in my mind. At some point, though, we have to step back and say, “Enough revising,” and let readers experience the story in their own way with what we’ve provided. Is it enough to satisfy? That’s where beta readers come in.

              • #18 by richardperth on February 4, 2014 - 1:25 pm

                Did that little old lady in 34C ever find her pet snake?

                On Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 11:35 AM, Kristen Lamb’s Blog wrote:

                > ontyrepassages commented: “I know what you mean, Laurie. No matter > what I’ve written I see the images that originated in my mind. At some > point, though, we have to step back and say, “Enough revising,” and let > readers experience the story in their own way with what we’ve provided. ” >

  9. #19 by Janet Walden-West on February 3, 2014 - 11:27 am

    “that world-building, detail, description can be DIVAS. Details have to be managed, told they are pretty and maybe even be given flowers once in a while because they LOVE to upstage the story and characters.”
    Love the description :)

  10. #20 by ontyrepassages on February 3, 2014 - 11:29 am

    It’s always about balance. I write fantasy and have half-a-dozen notebooks that explain how the world I created works, but THAT isn’t what readers want to read. On the other hand, they want to sense that those notebooks exist, they want that reassurance. Writing, then, becomes providing a compelling story with just enough detail to hold up the reality I’ve created. I’ll be there for my second WANACon and am really hoping I can get the same seat I had last time. :)

  11. #21 by Tam Francis on February 3, 2014 - 11:32 am

    Again, another great timely post. I am writing historical fiction and like to weave facts and information (a little education), but am not sure when its too much detail, too many facts for the reader. Got any tips to find the balance? Right now I tend to go with a Beta Reader consensus. If MOST of the readers liked the detailed bits than I keep it. But if MOST complain about too much technical info, I pare down. That’s what I’ve been going with so far.

  12. #22 by Melissa Lewicki on February 3, 2014 - 11:35 am

    Re: Star Trek and scientific progress–I’m still waiting for that beam me up Scottie thing.

    • #23 by bardotbarbiturate on February 3, 2014 - 3:27 pm

      It’s a work in progress! They’ve managed to transport some particles 60 miles but they don’t think it’ll be possible to transport living matter in the same manner. Never say never with science, there’s always someone who’s determined to prove the naysayers wrong.

  13. #25 by myeagermind on February 3, 2014 - 11:51 am

  14. #26 by Laurie A Will on February 3, 2014 - 11:52 am

    I am mostly a bare bones person. I like just enough detail to get me started and then my brain can fill in the rest. I can’t stand pages and pages of description. If it’s a good enough story I’ll skim or skip it, if it’s not I’ll stop reading. One of the books I was so disappointed with was Hannibal. I found it frustrating. Harris would pull me in have me at the edge of my seat and the go on for three pages about Italian architecture. If I had wanted to know more about Italian architecture. I would have looked it up. But, that’s the kind of person I am. I have n qualms about picking a nonfiction book or two or three to learn about something. I like to learn small details in fiction. When I really want to learn about something, I’m happy doing research.

  15. #27 by firsttimeauthor on February 3, 2014 - 11:52 am

    How do you manage the issue where your research (ie the truth of how something would happen) is counter-intuitive?

    • #28 by Tam Francis on February 3, 2014 - 1:43 pm

      I wonder about that as well. Sometimes the “truth” is bizarre or like you said counter-intuitive. When do you pull the FICTION card? I’ve read other blogs that say STORY always comes first and even in historical fiction it’s okay to “bend” the facts.

      • #29 by Author Kristen Lamb on February 3, 2014 - 3:06 pm

        You cannot please everyone. That’s the hard truth. Find beta readers who like your genre and test their reactions is the best advice I can give.

  16. #30 by Tamara LeBlanc on February 3, 2014 - 11:52 am

    I love details, but I don’t want too many or too few…I like a nice Goldie Locks level of detail. but as long as the movie, or story entertains me, without yanking me out with someone shattering a car window with a jerk of their elbow or someone jumping out of a crashing car to miraculously break the fall of another person flying out of a crashing car (one of the Fast and Furious movies…Good God) then I’m happy.
    When I read Jurasic Park years and years before the movies came out, I inhaled the intricate detail Crichton wove into the story. I was thrilled to learn about the science and genetics, even though I knew we didn’t have the technology to pull off such a feat. But I had friends who thought those parts were boring and they ended up breezing past them to get to the action.
    You can’t please everyone and I found this out very quickly when I wrote a paranormal romance (which, thanks in part to your input, landed me an agent a while back) set in San Francisco years after a mega earthquake splits the land and the resulting fissure is flooded with seawater forming a brand new island. Along with Internet research I actually called a geologist in SF…he very rudely told me that would never happen. I asked if he was 100% sure and after some hesitation he grudgingly explained that he’s not God and if God decided to split the Earth and make a whole new island in one fell swoop then good for him…
    I didnt really like the guy’s condescending tone so I put my idea into the book anyway.
    Of course, my agent, who loved the book and my voice told me to take it out. Too many people might question it. So I did and I’m actually happier with the way I changed it.
    The moral of this story?
    Listen to the research and to condescending scientists. It’ll make for a more believable and enjoyable story in the end.
    As always, thank you for your wisdom.
    Loved this post,
    Tamara

  17. #31 by Dennis Langley on February 3, 2014 - 11:57 am

    I am not a big fan of huge amounts of detail. Give me enough to paint my own picture and move on with the plot. Some of the tomes out there could, i my humble opinion be cut down to palatable size by removing 200-300 pages of details. ;-)

  18. #32 by LeahBraemel (@LeahBraemel) on February 3, 2014 - 12:03 pm

    Even though I don’t write sci-fi or paranormals, I have to be a factophile because I write stories set in places my readers actually live (Texas — I’m a Canadian) so I have to make sure I’ve done my research that this tree or that bird can actually exist in that land or flower at that time of year. Because sharp-eyed readers will call me on them. The devil really IS in the details.

  19. #33 by Ensis on February 3, 2014 - 12:14 pm

    I think it depends on your genre and medium. I will stop watching a move that has implausible crap in it, but I USUALLY cut a book a little more slack. It just depends on how invested I am in the characters and story.

    Also, why do I get the sense you’re not joking about the green paint, Kristen?

  20. #34 by L. E. Carmichael on February 3, 2014 - 12:36 pm

    Nonfiction writers have this problem, too – I fall in love with all the cool details I discover in my research and I want to include ALL of them. Restricting myself to one well-chosen fact rather than a cluster of facts that make the same point is really tricky, but it helps if I remind myself that nonfiction is storytelling, too!

  21. #35 by Tom on February 3, 2014 - 12:52 pm

    I once read a novel by a popular author that hinged on the fact that none of the characters had a cell phone (or at least a working one). And no, it wasn’t Charles Dickens. Drove me crazy. I’m willing to suspend belief (I want to!) but when the whole plot would have disintegrated if even one character had a cell phone, I’m done. Never read another book by that author, not surprisingly!

  22. #36 by sallyember on February 3, 2014 - 12:59 pm

    Hi, Kristen, When I do not explain, readers complain. When I do explain, they complain. What to do? I please myself. I imagine that I’m reading it for the first time and provide the level of explanation I would want, where I would want it (last possible place which does not interrupt the flow as much as elsewhere). I think there is no good solution, really.

    Thanks for your blog and your “contest.” Enter me!

    take care,

    Sally

  23. #37 by bamauthor on February 3, 2014 - 1:02 pm

    Enjoyed your post. Because I am a nonfiction picture book writer, I love details, and I work hard to verify the information. Yet, I am using a character so I have to weave that with a story and picture line tying all those loose ends together. I do the same with my historical articles; always like to use a conversational tone while explaining the facts.

  24. #38 by Raani York on February 3, 2014 - 1:10 pm

    I do like books where I can learn some details… not if the story gets lost in details. Something new, something not everyone knows is quite helpful and very interesting – to me at least – and I love books like this!
    If I learn that much that I’m getting lost in the story and forget where it stopped for a detailed explanation, I probably won’t continue reading after the second time…

  25. #39 by Christine Hayton on February 3, 2014 - 1:16 pm

    Just finished researching the sixties (and I was there) and I understand when you get wrapped up in details and want to include everything. Took days of editing to reverse pages of crap that did nothing for the characters or the plot. Your advise is spot on and as always I learn something from you. As a novice writer (10 months in) you are my hero right now…

  26. #40 by Sandra Wagner-Wright on February 3, 2014 - 1:33 pm

    It’s such a delicate dance between too much detail/description and not enough. Too much local color or not enough.

  27. #41 by Shawn on February 3, 2014 - 2:19 pm

    Green..

  28. #42 by cynthiagrstacey on February 3, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Awesome Article about getting the details right in our stories by Author Kristen Lamb

  29. #43 by cynthiagrstacey on February 3, 2014 - 3:02 pm

    I love reading the nitty picky details in the story. It makes it more interesting. Thanks Kristen. I love reading your articles. :)

  30. #44 by richardperth on February 3, 2014 - 3:19 pm

    I had a somewhat different problem from how much detail to put in a story. My purpose was to share new ideas, some of which are complex, in the hope that the ideas can make a difference. What I had to do was to write a story that included the ideas without letting the ideas get in the way of the story. That meant my problem was to decide how much detail to leave out.

    I started with a romance, which is the focus of the story. Action and adventure with different faces of courage moved the story along in an interesting way. Time travel, in a realistic way, allowed ideas to be introduced as a contrast between two worlds.

    What I wound up with was upbeat social science fiction with romance, action, and adventure.

    With all the detail I wanted in the story, it was over 110,000 words. That was edited down to less than 60,000 words. With further editing and rewriting, the book is now 75,440 words including title page, table of contents, acknowledgements, and credits.

    So far, everybody who has read it, liked it, but nobody has mentioned the new ideas. Maybe the people who are interested in the subjects the ideas address will notice.

  31. #45 by Kathy on February 3, 2014 - 3:27 pm

    I love doing research and I have a preference for books and stories that show they’ve done the work. In my own writing, I’ve had times when I couldn’t keep working on something if I didn’t know how something would work or if an idea I had was plausible. I think having the facts straight provides a sturdy foundation from which you can safely suspend disbelief.

  32. #46 by Kathy on February 3, 2014 - 3:31 pm

    Reblogged this on Doomsday Writer! and commented:
    Some good thoughts on research and writing from Kristen Lamb. You can read the first part here: http://wp.me/py7Aw-3Ne

  33. #47 by symplysilent on February 3, 2014 - 3:51 pm

    Hi Kristen; Awesome post, as always. For some reason, I have been rereading Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. Actually, I am typing in one of his books, hoping some of his technique will rub off on me. He created a complex and diverse universe. Sometimes, the level of detail is overwhelming, especially in the earlier books. But, as he went along, he hit a better balance of detail and plot development. I was sorry he did not live long enough to finish. Thank you, Silent

  34. #48 by carolkean on February 3, 2014 - 4:18 pm

    Yes: “Resist the urge to explain. The second a reader picks up any book, reality is already suspended. All we have to do is to maintain the illusion. Facts, research, details, can enhance the illusion or shatter it.”This will be my new mantra: “The world rewards finishers, not perfection.” We can finish a book, we cannot, however, make it perfect. …Some love details, others want us to move forward or slow down or turn right.” If the goal is to get the protagonist up a tree and shoot at him, don’t stop to smell the roses along the way: cut to the chase and deliver the action.

    • #49 by richardperth on February 3, 2014 - 4:33 pm

      I have had readers say they would have liked to have more detail about the star system I created as a necessary element in my story. There are 11 planets in the system, and I tried to say something interesting about each of them. But to describe each one in detail would fill an encyclopedia, and that would have been of interest to an astronomer or astrophysicist or cosmologist and then only if it were real.

      Engineers have a saying that might well apply to authors of fiction: KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

  35. #50 by Heather on February 3, 2014 - 5:05 pm

    As I’ve been finishing the ‘fast draft’ I’ve been pretty lean on setting and information when I could add it in to give the story a bit more breadth. But, I don’t want to overwhelm the reader, just give them enough detail to spark their imagination about my fictional settings, mixed in with the real-life careers.

  36. #51 by Nicole Grabner on February 3, 2014 - 5:11 pm

    I have a love/hate relationship with details. Sometimes they are everything I can think of and other times I wish that I didn’t have to deal with them at all! (usually that happens when I’m not sure about something – like the reality of a police investigation or how would someone really poison a person with something that wasn’t traceable – is that possible?) For other things that I enjoy dealing with, like the scene, is something that I feel more confident with. You know?

  37. #52 by sknicholls on February 3, 2014 - 6:18 pm

    Purple prose annoys me. I don’t like to read it and I don’t like to write it. I do like facts, details and descriptions. I just don’t want them long winded and verbose. One out of twenty five of my readers won’t like my writing style. I am coming to understand that.

  38. #53 by Kayla on February 3, 2014 - 8:39 pm

    I am in the love/hate group when it comes to details, both in reading and writing them! I am one of those people that went and googled “Does lightening really do that to sand?” and “Are driftwood fires really blue?” because I was curious if those ‘facts’ were correct in their books and movies, but it doesn’t really bother me to find out that the writers smudged the truth a little. For writing, I go back and forth on whether or not I’m giving too much or not enough.
    I love your blog and sooo enjoy reading your advice! <3

  39. #54 by richardperth on February 3, 2014 - 9:46 pm

    Research can tell you to leave a detail out.

    The protagonists fly over a mountain in chapter two of my book. It’s in Arizona, west of the Grand Canyon, and East of the Colorado River flowing in it’s gorge south of Hoover Dam.

    When I found the name, Mount Wilson, I also discovered there are more than ten places called Mount Wilson around the world. One is especially well known by millions of people who live in the Los Angeles metropolitian area.

    I decided to leave the name out to avoid confusion.

  40. #55 by Joanna Aislinn on February 3, 2014 - 10:18 pm

    I like viable detail woven into character POV, especially that of a medical nature. (It’s my background. I gets sensitive :). And accurate detail woven into historicals not only impresses me, it becomes the catalyst for me looking things up and becoming all the more knowledgeable too!

  41. #56 by stacymantle on February 3, 2014 - 11:42 pm

    Love this! It also shows the importance of having someone in the field read it before going to print. I have a lot of weapons in my novel. A gun enthusiast friend of mine recently read it and right away brought up the point that my character needs a different, more practical, “go-to” weapon because the one she is using is simply too heavy to cart around all day. It was a gun I hadn’t tried when I worked it into the story, but after taking a turn in the field with it, I realized he was exactly right. Now he is one of my beta readers. We can’t know every single fact no matter how much research we do, so I think this makes a point for having someone who deals with a subject all day be the one who beta reads to sort out a few of the important facts!

  42. #57 by Stuart Land on February 4, 2014 - 1:24 am

    As long as we’re wishing for druthers, I wish that all my readers had Kristin’s brain. Well, make that. “like Kristin’s brain,” otherwise they’d all be Kristin and I’d only have one reader. I come from a screenplay writing background, and I worked on many movies in the effects department, so I have a particular sensitivity to the horrid misuse (and lack thereof) of details and logic. I’m a research fanatic, but I filter what actually ends up in my books. I might find 50 bits of information and only use one or two to get the point across. I always make sure I fit my story to the facts, and not the other way round. I weave story into history, not history into story. It always works out if you take the time to research properly.

    I’d like to make a point about one thing I’ve read in these comments, which is adding details after the fact of writing the story. My experience has been, with my own novels and the many writers I’ve coached over decades of writing, that when this approach is taken, not only does it seems “stuck on,” but the writer misses a great story-telling opportunity. When events, situations, and even details flow naturally from the advancement of the story and the interactions of the characters, new ideas, logical progression, and plausible development happen that is unforeseen if elements are “stuck in” at a later time. In other words, do all that research and fact gathering first.

    I’l go away now.

    • #58 by Author Kristen Lamb on February 4, 2014 - 9:13 am

      I agree that immersion ahead of time in the research is very helpful and makes the flow far more organic. I do a little of both. Sometimes when I revise I realize I have all dialogue and never bothered to add some setting, so I will layer in some more description. But the fundamentals of the story are different and that’s where research ahead of time can make the impressive twists and turns.

    • #59 by moxeyns on February 10, 2014 - 5:33 am

      “I weave story into history, not history into story” – lovely explanation, Stuart.

  43. #60 by vindalv on February 4, 2014 - 4:35 am

    Hi Kristen. Thank you for your writing. I am inspired and smiling. ;)

  44. #61 by Carolyn on February 4, 2014 - 8:30 am

    I’m a reader who loves details when dropped carefully, managed well and not overdone. Like you, I can suspend disbelief if it’s not thrown in my face. I can totally buy into Iron Man, I didn’t have a problem with Indy hiding in a fridge and coming out fine, but I can no longer watch Grimm because it’s just too many fantastical creatures and races running around one city.
    I like to think my short stories have a good balance. In “The Christmoose Gift” I used details carefully to describe the rescue of a white moose that had fallen half into the ice, but not so many details that I was describing everything. The way I see it, if there are too little details, how is the reader going to see your world, or characters?

  45. #62 by L. D. Sword on February 4, 2014 - 8:41 pm

    how interesting that two authors I respect and follow posted this week about the importance of and accuracy in fiction. Is the universe sending messages again? Peggy wrote: http://peggyblair.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/writing-historical-fiction-it-aint-easy/#respond

  46. #63 by MeAndDating on February 5, 2014 - 11:58 am

    Whether faction or fiction, it’s a balancing act between description (detail), narrative and dialogue.

    I’ve come to see that boredom lurks in detail, trouble hides in narrative, but dialogue is where the gold is to be found.

    Just my tuppence…

  47. #64 by G.B. Miller on February 5, 2014 - 12:59 pm

    I like a moderate amount of detail in what I read and as for writing, I’ve learned to tone down just a tad one of my strong points in my writing. There is such a thing as too much detail, and I found that if it turns me off as a reader, then as a writer, I should strike a good balance between too little and too much.

  48. #65 by Julie Glover on February 6, 2014 - 10:59 am

    “They love bare bones and don’t care that they can read an entire book and never really know what the protagonist looks like.” Yep, that’s me. LOL. I have to remind myself to describe rooms and characters and landscapes, because as a reader, I don’t care all that much about that stuff. Like in The Lord of the Rings, there were pages and pages where I wanted to say, “I get it. The shire is green!” But I had friends who reveled in all that rich description.

    Still, had the shire been mowed one minute and tall weeds the next, that would have driven me crazy. So I love the way you talk about balance here. About tailoring to your audience but not taking short cuts with reality.

  49. #66 by Anna Todaro on February 8, 2014 - 1:11 am

    This one is hard because I’m always worried that my picture will be ruined by someone who knows that some line should be slightly different so that everyone can tell it is a heron and not an egrett…

  50. #67 by moxeyns on February 10, 2014 - 5:32 am

    I really should stop reading your posts at work – you make me giggle about 4 times :) Thanks for the gems in the laughter.

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