Monday, 21 April 2014

Guest Post - Research to be Real by Abby Vandiver

Research and Your Novel

It’s 4am. You slip quietly out of bed, not wanting to wake your better half. You check the digital clock – it’s three hours before you have to shower and go to work. You figure you can write a thousand words in those three hours. You’ve got the entire scene playing in your head, have since you woke up at two. You grab a cup of coffee, slide your feet across the floor in your fluffy house shoes, turn on the song that you know will inspire you really low so not to wake anyone, and sit in front of your computer. It’s still dark out, nothing is going to distract you. You stretch your fingers and place them on the keyboard . . .

“The howling wind blew through the dark alley . . .”

Wait, you think. I don’t know how that back alley should look, or where in the city it would be. So you pull up Google Earth and look for an area where there is a back alley that’ll fit into the scene. Then you zoom in to see how the alley looks, wanting to write as realistic of a description of the alley as you can. Maybe you can make it up you think. No, you decide, you do want my reader to be able to picture it, to feel like they are actually there. Maybe a car should be in the alley, you think. What kind of car? Light bulb! A green Karmann Ghia. Wait, did they make them in green? Let me Google that. 

And so it goes. Ending up that in those three hours that you rose early to write your thousand or so words, you’ve only got a paragraph because you needed to look up more in that scene than you realized.

The old adage goes, “Write what you know.” But the rule is “Show don’t tell.” You want to show the locale, the dialect of the people, the aromas and sights that fill the street so the feeling your reader gets is real. Even to write what you know, you may still have to do some research - look at old pictures, see, touch, feel what you want to write in the book, so that your reader can experience that sensation through your words. But there are times when you write that you venture out of your comfort zone, when don’t write about what you know. For instance, writing a historical novel. Research can get much more in depth and take up more of your writing time than you imagined. You are writing fiction, certainly. And fiction is a form of entertainment, but when you flub historical facts that people know, putting a telephone in 1867 Tennessee, you jerk your reader out of the story. It’s important to make a story feel real, and to make it believable. To do that you need to do research.

It used to be that authors went to the exotic places they wrote about, they shadowed that snarky detective that was to be their main character, and they cooked up the creations in their kitchens to determine the smell and tastes of the foods their characters were eating. And those authors less fortunate had to take to the library, search out travel books, and talk to their friend’s cousin who knew a sheriff once. Or just make it up as they went along, which surely sent potential readers scurrying in the other direction. But not today. The Internet is replete with everything you need to know to write, whether your book takes place in Paris in the year 1012, or in space in the year 2645. You can get a satellite image of street in Italy, follow it and see the sights, shops and the people there. I did it, and readers often asked me, “Have you have been to Italy? Your description seemed so real.”

In my new book, At the End of the Line that I coauthored with Kathryn Dionne under the pen name of Kathryn Longino, we wrote about the 50, 60, and 70s. It was about civil rights and politics during a time when we were too young to follow it. But no worry because with YouTube we were able to go back and watch the videos of what happened on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi, listen to Dr. King’s speech at the March on Washington, and see how the TV broadcast looked when it interrupted the soap opera As the World Turns when Walter Cronkite announced President Kennedy had been shot. Google maps afforded us to see the directions and routes our characters would take as they traveled within the pages of our book. And Wikipedia gave us an inside view of the events we wrote about, their catalysts and how the outcome reverberated in our society. We were able to bring our story to life by learning about the actual events that went into our story. These, I believe, are the things that will draw a reader in, and make him feel as if he were there. And that’s exactly how you want your reader to experience.

Researching your book before you start and supplementing your knowledge while writing will give your book a feel of authenticity, captivate your readers, and give your story depth. It is important that you do your research if you want to write a good story. And with the advent of the Internet and search engines (and, don’t forget there’s still a library in every neighborhood), there is no reason not to get the facts straight in your book. Take the time to do the necessary research for your book. You’ll be happier with the outcome and so will your reader.

Click image to purchase from Amazon
A wrong number, and a cry of desperation at the end of the line, sparks a long distance friendship between two women who’ve never met. Through fourteen years of trouble and heartache from a stagnant domestic life, the struggle for civil rights, and the stigma of interracial relationships, a bond forms between the two that changes both of their lives forever. 

It’s 1958, a time when women and Negroes are deemed second-class and are being second-guessed, from there arises the perfect storm for change, and the perfect time for an unlikely friendship.

Beatrice “Beanie” Peterson, forced to marry at fifteen and live with two sister wives, six children, and an abusive husband twenty years her senior, is looking for a way out.

Adeline “Liddie” Garrison, friend of Jack Kennedy, wife of a prominent Boston business man, and resident of Beacon Hill has already found her way in.

About the Authors:

Kathryn Longino is a pen name for the writing team of authors Abby L. Vandiver and Kathryn Dionne.

Born and raised in Ohio, Shondra C. Longino, who writes under the pen name Abby L. Vandiver, holds a bachelors in Economics, a masters in Public Administration and a Juris Doctor. These days, Ms. Longino enjoys writing and endeavors to devote all her extra time to it.

Her debut novel, In the Beginning, an Amazon #1 bestseller in its category, was written on a whim, put in a box for more than a decade, and finally pulled out, dusted off and published in 2013. Its stand-alone sequel, Irrefutable Proof, is also a bestseller and is available on Amazon.

Ms. Longino resides in Cleveland, Ohio and has four wonderful grandchildren, Gavin, Sydne September and Riley.

To learn more about Author Abby L. Vandiver, visit her website:, or Twitter: @AbbyVandiver, Facebook: AbbyVandiver

Kathryn Dionne lives in Southern California with her husband, Jeff, and their two Shar Peis, Bogey and Gracie.

From an early age, Kathryn's love of treasure hunting sparked an interest in archaeology. As an amateur archaeologist, she's been fortunate enough to uncover some very unique artifacts in different parts of the globe. However, she's still searching for that very special scroll.

In addition to writing, she manages their five-acre property and their grove of Italian olive trees. Her husband has lovingly named their business; Saint Kathryn's Olive Oil.

In her spare time, she makes cookie jars and throws pottery in her studio. She also creates mosaics from discarded objects and sells them under the category of Found Art.

She is currently writing a new series called; Chasing Time, which she hopes to have published some time in 2014.

To learn more about Kathryn Dionne, please visit her website at:

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article, Abby l. Vandiver. You did our book proud.