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Effective Research for your Contemporary Fiction Books by Wendy H. Jones

When one thinks about researching for a book, historical research immediately springs to mind. I am currently researching a historical series based on the life of a real Naval Surgeon and this has taken me all over the world and allowed me to gain an insight into a world that is new to me. Now, I had some insight, as a former Naval Nurse, however, this was in the late seventies and early eighties, many years after my main character. So, historical research is extremely important.

However, research is equally as important for our contemporary fiction. Non-fiction is, of course, a whole different ball game. For the purposes of this blog, I will focus on contemporary fiction.

As I write Police Procedurals, it is important for me to get the details right in terms of what the police might do and the law as it relates to them. It quickly became apparent, the terms we hear bandied around - GBH, ABH, etc. – do not apply in Scotland. Scotland has its own law system. It also has a Sheriff and Sheriff Courts and a Procurator Fiscal. This entailed a meeting with a lawyer who told me everything I needed to know. IN order to get the police procedures right, I sent a message to Police Scotland who duly despatched my local Police Sergeant in my direction. He spent a pleasant few hours telling me what CID, or MIT as it is now known, did. Then he dispensed more sage advice as he was about to leave. Don’t spend your time trying to get everything right, what we do is, on the whole, really boring. Give your readers some action. So, get it right but use poetic license.

For more research, I visited the Metropolitan Police Museum Exhibition at the Museum of London. What a fascinating exhibition, which gave me a great deal of insight into crime. Whilst much of this was historical, it has come into its own in terms of marketing my books. But that’s another blog altogether.

When it comes to setting, there is no substitute for visiting. Yes, one can use google maps, but this does not give the feel of the place – is it buzzing, vibrant, quiet, boring, brooding, eerie? Nor does it give the sounds, smells, taste of the food, or the local knowledge that only locals have. I visited New Orleans to undertake research for my book, Killers’ Curse. There is no way one can give a flavour of New Orleans without visiting it. This brought my narrative to life in ways I could not imagine. Readers either say, I have got it bang on, or they now want to visit. My visit brought it to life, as it did my descriptions of the Louisiana Bayou. There is no way any writer can give a proper description of this without ever having being there.

In conclusion, I would like to say, do your research and then pepper it wisely throughout your narrative. Not everything you research needs to make it into the book.

Author Bio

Wendy H. Jones is the multi-award-winning, best-selling author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, The Cass Claymore Investigates Series, Bertie the Buffalo Picture Book Series, and the Writing Matters Series of Non-Fiction books for writers. She is a writing coach, a highly sought after public speaker, and Editor in Chief of Writers’ Narrative eMagazine. She is also a partner in Auscot Publishing and Retreats.

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