What is the most beneficial thing a writer can do to improve their stories? Obviously, read; but a branch-off from reading is collecting information to use later on in your own work. Some people keep written or typed notes, some bookmark pages, some keep a list of YouTube videos; personally, I keep a Pinterest board entitled “Writing 2” (my personal account) (https://www.pinterest.com/eagle07/writing-2/) where I keep tons of info for naming characters, types of cars, origins of traditions, symbol meanings, character motivations – anything I think could help me in a later chapter or novel goes onto this board. This is super helpful to me because as I am writing, I can look up things about my characters’ hobbies, review simple actions I wish to portray, or study up on more complex things without hunting all over the internet for them. So when I come across an info graphic or an interesting article, I pin it. So for a few posts, I’m going to give you some examples of information that I’ve collected, to give you an idea of what to keep an eye out for. Again, I save my ideas on Pinterest, but you can use whatever works best for you. And I will also do my best to give credit to the original sources.
My current work in progress is a fantasy novel with some super dark themes. There are a lot of fights, a lot of injuries, characters are often isolated and interrogated, and people have to find their own ways of dealing with injuries, because medical attention is scarce. So as a result, I need to know how I can push my chracters’ limits without finishing them off and how to get the crimes to play out in a believable way.
So here are 10 things you might want to collect for writing any type of violent/crime stories:
1. “5 Minutes to Writing Better Guns and Knives,” by Writer’s Digest http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/5-minutes-to-writing-better-guns-and-knives
This article gives a good idea of what kind of knife an attacker is most likely to use, the build of common handguns, and common mistakes made when writing a fight scene.
2. “Pistol Section Components” http://mechanicstips.blogspot.com/2016/10/pistol-section-components.html
This info graphic gives you a cutout view of a handgun. Now your character may not need to point out every little bit of the gun, but maybe they need to know what part they can take off so the gun still looks functional but won’t actually shoot. Or maybe your character is cleaning a gun while talking to someone and you need to be able to point out a few parts along the way without sounding like you know nothing about guns.
3. “Interrogate Me!” http://writewithfey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/writing-about-interrogation.html?m=1
Need to write an interrogation but don’t know how to construct it? Are you writing from the interrogator’s POV, or is your character the one being interrogated? How can your character spot a liar? Or can your readers tell who is playing who? This article gives you the basics you need to know before writing an interrogation scene.
4. Havoscope: Global Black Market Information http://www.havocscope.com/
Is your character into some shady business? Or maybe a cop hot on the trail of case? Need to know some sketchy things and don’t know where to look? Look no further: Havoscope is here! Havoscope can tell you all you ever needed to know about drug dealing, counterfeit goods, prices from the black market, and most any other dark business your character is going to come across. I’d highly recommend checking out this site!
5. “How to Escape a Sinking Car” http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/12/05/how-to-escape-a-sinking-car-an-illustrated-guide/
Your character’s car just broke through the railing and fell off the bridge into the lake! But no worries, you’re going to turn them into a hero by letting them bust out, right? No, because you just made it way too easy. “Thinking fast, Allie unbuckled her seat belt, pulled her legs up over the dash and kicked a hole in the window, letting her crawl out and swim to the surface!” NO. First of all, I wasn’t really concerned for Allie’s safety just now, which means there was zero suspense, which means you might as well skip this scene altogether. Personally, if my car just fell 50+ feet into water, I wouldn’t be thinking fast – I’d be freaking out, at least for a few seconds. Things to keep in mind: is it an older model car that she can unlock manually? How deep is the water? It is VERY difficult to break a car’s window with your feet; so how deep is the water putting pressure on the car? Does Allie have air or is she exerting energy with holding her breath and kicking the window? Is anyone else in the car? If so, it’s fine and dandy that she got out but what about the people in the back seat? She just let a crap-ton of water into the car!
6. “How to Write Suspense”, Wizzley.com https://wizzley.com/how-to-write-horror-genre/
How do you write a horror novel when all you’ve ever written is romance and puppies? this article from Wizzley give fantastic tips for how to scare the pants off your readers.
7. “How to Attend to a Stab Wound” http://www.wikihow.com/Attend-to-a-Stab-Wound
Don’t assume that because you see “wiki” in there that this is no good. This article has been reviewed by living, breathing, practicing doctors. I’ve found it to be helpful in a lot of my novels. and the great thing about Wiki is it gives you more than one approach to work with.
8. “The Limits of the Human Body” http://sodapopave.com/soda-pop-ave/2013/10/21/the-limits-of-the-human-body
Is your character starving? Drowning? Heat stroke? Or do you just think they might be really close? Your readers might know more than you do, so make sure you check your facts!
9. “Fingerprinting For Writers” http://thrillwriting.blogspot.com/2013/03/fingerprinting-for-writers-by-patti.html
ThrillWriting is one of my favorite new sites! Pick any crime-related topic you need to know about, and you can find it here. A big bonus is that all the information on this site is specially geared towards writers! What that means to me is, while the information is accurate and written by experts, it’s also broken down into manageable bits, so I can learn without feeling overwhelmed by the size of the articles. Plus there are lots of links to additional sites and blogs so you can gather information from more than one source.
10. So what’s the difference between this and this and why should I explain it to my readers?
Because, as mentioned before, your readers may know more then you do!
“Allie winced as the blade sliced through her hand, opening a vein…or was it a capillary..? oh well, whatever.” NO! Not whatever! All you need is a 5th year medical student to be reading your book, get to that scene and think “If Allie lost THAT MUCH blood, the knife hit an artery, not a vein. Doesn’t this author know anything?” And just like that, your reputation as a professional and a human with a reasonable amount of research ability goes down the tubes. To top it off, said med student with get back to her dorm and tell her roommates: “Don’t ever buy that book! The injuries are so unrealistic! She didn’t even know an artery from a vein!” And one of those roommates goes home, sees the book on a table and tells her mom to return it and get her money back. Mom goes to her book club and…you get the idea. THIS is why it’s important to collect info and know your facts. Because as it turns out, Allie only has seconds to live.
So that’s part one for you all! I hope I’m getting the idea across. Collecting info is very useful for your books, whether you’re writing fiction or especially non-fiction. I’ll work on part 2 soon! If there is anything you’d like to add or if you have a favorite source to suggest please leave a comment!!