Your Research Is Showing…

Sitting here in London on an unfamiliar laptop hating the keyboard and wishing it had a mouse… It has one of those nifty touch pad thingies, and when I drop my thumb down as I type, as has been my wont since I took typing from Mrs. Brew at Watkins Night School many eons back, the damn touch pad shoots me to France or someplace. It makes typing a nightmare. I suffer greatly for your knowledge gain.

Vacation is about reading. I was reading The Cabinet of Curiosities. Not terribly well written. As soon as I figured out who the killer was, I gave up on it. What’s the point? It took place in New York of long ago (even before Mrs. Brew walked the Earth) and you can smell the research dripping off every page, like a Victorian sewer overflowing. The guy was so proud of all the crap he learned about whatever time it was in Olde Newe Yorke that he threw it ALL in. Ugh.

A zillion details which have nothing to do with forward plot motion clog the pipes of the read. I could just see the author, smacking his hands together saying, “They’re going to really want to know THIS. I came to the library in the RAIN to find this out!”

Nobody cares. Only the writer. The reader wants a cracking great story and that’s it. He or she doesn’t give a damn how long it took you to track down that piece of research detail. Just because you suffered to find out the fact, doesn’t mean you should put the fact in your story. Does the reader have to know it? Probably not. So leave it out.

Know enough to tell the story. And this was a novel. You’re, misguided lamb, probably writing a screenplay. Pages in a novel are filled with type. Pages in a script are filled with white space. So you REALLY have to be careful what sort of research you toss in there.

I am now reading Child 44, a novel that takes place Russia during the Stalin Era. Not a fun time. This guy had to do research too, but for some subtle yet telling reason, it doesn’t show. There’s less of it on the page. Just enough, really, for us to believe the author knows what he’s talking about and no more. There’s a lot there, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not SHOWING OFF. In the end, I couldn’t tolerate the gobs of research the Cabinet Of Curiosities guy troweled on top of his story like so much thick makeup on an aging whore… it didn’t help.

Read twenty pages of each book and see if you get my drift. Less is more. Juuuust enough is all you need. Just because you know it, doesn’t mean you have to tell us.

I hate this computer.


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