So You Wanna Write Part 6: Live Your Topic
April 8, 2014 22 Comments
So how does one go about this?
You’ve got to fill your mind with as much genre-friendly information as you can.
Technically it’s called research. But to me, that’s a dirty, word . So instead of research (or the R-word), were’ going to call it living.
Throughout the entire course of writing your book, you’ve got to live your topic.
The year and a half it took me to write The Man in the Box, I constantly read books that were similar to its setting/genre. I read Jurassic Park, Hunger Games, John Carter of Mars, among many others.
And if you read Box, you can see inspirations of those novels.
I’m currently writing a young readers novel set in war-torn Europe. So for the past year or so I’ve been reading and watching anything I can get my hands on about the Holocaust or the German’s point of view of the war. The knowledge I’ve gained is invaluable and will make my book that much richer and accurate.
I wrote yesterday about writing what you know. I can’t go back in time and live during WWII. I can’t know what it’s like to live in a bunker awaiting your next suicidal mission. I don’t know what it’s like to be starved or tortured in a slave labor camp. I can’t imagine the feeling of stepping foot inside a gas chamber knowing I have just minutes left of life as I’m being pushed and shoved by dozens of other naked, frightened men.
But I can get an idea by reading Night by Elie Wiesel, or returning to the classic account of Anne Frank’s diary.
So you’ve got to chew and gnaw on your subject’s genre. Do the research (or living), take notes. Even if you’re writing a fantasy born completely of your own imagination, you’ve still got to study the greats that came before you. Dissect their work and figure out for yourself what made them so popular, or not popular.
You’ve got to live out your topic or subject matter. Writing isn’t just making stuff up on the spot or taking the craft in your own untrained direction. You’ve got to hone your skill, live out your subject matter, surround yourself with the setting your writing about.
You know what sets Pixar movies apart from virtually every other movie in Hollywood? The creators and artists spend years researching (living) their subjects. Research (living) is a key ingredient in their movies (did you catch that?). Without research, those movie gems would just be like another Dreamworks cartoon.
Draw on real life. Take advantage of history books. Figure out those universal themes that keep pulling in generation after generation of new audiences, and then learn to retell it in your own way.
Live your topic. Study your subject. By doing this, you bring your story to life.