Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

As my wife and daughters contemplated whether or not to venture out into the throng of holiday shoppers, scouring the adds in search of some item they felt they desperately needed, an item supposedly deeply discounted, I thought to myself, "Why do they call it 'Black Friday'?"  A little research was required.

When  a new writer sets out to start a project, they often ask what they should write about.  Some veteran writers will tell them to 'write what you know'.  If you're a know-it-all, that's fine and good as you could probably tackle anything, but most of us do have severe limitations on knowledge.  Ok...maybe just me.  In most cases a little research can play a vital role in creating a story with useful, accurate, information.  Plus, it can be fun and very enlightening.

When I started writing my first manuscript I had a few ideas rattling around in my head, but the one that appealed to me the most was the one I felt I could finish with the least amount of research.  I just didn't want to be bogged down with delays while I eagerly sought counsel on some small tidbit of information which would probably only account for 10 words of actual composition.  I just wanted to get in to the mechanics of writing again since it had been quite a while for me.  What I found though was the project still required some research and I actually enjoyed the small breaks it required as I pondered ways to plagiarize without plagiarizing.

Some authors live for the research.  I know many who spend a year or more on a manuscript and over half of that time is spent in various forms of research, either interviewing, reading, or traveling to exotic places as they dive headlong into unknown territory.  David Morrell tells in his book on writing, The Successful Novelisthow he took a survival course which involved many weeks of training and a final exam where he was left in the wilderness and had to find his way to a specific rendezvous within so many days.  He went through  the ordeal for his research on his novel Testament.  I've heard Steve Berry visits the local used book stores and scours the shelves for older literature to fuel his very historically accurate thrillers.  He usually emerges with over a hundred books for his efforts and when you read his exciting stories, you feel the work come alive.  My friend and thriller writer, Chuck Barrett, made several trips to Savannah for his novel The Savannah Project and as his characters were thrust into action during St. Patrick's day in the historical city, you couldn't help but visualize all Mr. Barrett had painstakingly researched as the accuracy and detail made the landscape come alive in my mind.

I for one am not a big research hound.  I will probably never write a historical thriller or pour my heart and soul into exotic places and cultures, but I do believe every story should lend itself to accuracy and because of that will always do what is needed to provide it to the reader.  Plus it usually is kind of fun.

As far as Black Friday, if you Google the term, you'll get your answer.  The Black Friday we are concerned with in this little blog, originated in Philadelphia in the 1960's and was attributed to most retailers "getting out of the red and into the black" as far as their profits go.  In other words, they are finally making money.  One word of caution on research.  If you use the Internet, make sure you are able to verify your information.  Wikipedia and the Internet are great sources, but sometimes can be riddled with opinions and misinformation.  Did I get it right?  Look for yourself.  Have fun and a great Thanksgiving weekend!

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