“…and the capital of Washington State is…”
“Wait, I know this one…Sleepless in Seattle. Seattle!”
“Correct. And Arkansas?”
“South Pacific, the musical and Nellie Forbush sings…LITTLE ROCK, ARK!”
“Well done. Now, a tricky one…Alabama.”
“Too easy. Montgomery as in Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird.” (Hubby quizzing me on my knowledge of state capitals of the USA – yeah, we have our moments! J)
I’ve learned so much from fiction. It’s useful at odd times, like trivia nights, but it’s comforting too, to know that I can trust writers. After all, they’re intelligent and curious people who have written the best book they can. When they tell me a thing is so, I trust they have given me factual information within their detailed descriptions, so I won’t make a fool of myself when I quote them.
With this in mind, and a deep love of knowledge across a broad spectrum, I researched tiny details for what turned out to be my debut novel, White Ginger.
For example, I needed a famous Hawaiian surfer for a minor character to compare himself to – and found Sonny Garcia who, as it turned out, was a better character match than I could have hoped for.
When Amelie and Arne head out to the reef, there was an entire underwater world to explore and bring to life. I know quite a bit now about the effects of pollution and climate change and development on reef environments. I also learned about scuba diving as well as the particular reef that protects Kauai.
I reveled in this knowledge, confident that I had learned something interesting to share with readers that added to the authenticity of the scene. And I discovered the little fish with the long name:
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – it’s Hawaiian for the fish with a nose like a pig! Click on the Hawaiian name to watch.
Then there was Hawaiian culture, legends and dancing. What can I say? I spent hours watching videos of this beautiful art form and learning more of the history and culture of the islands.
As writers, we have a huge responsibility to our readers. Our job is not just to write a great story, but to be accurate in every detail offered in our work. It’s detective work, sometimes painstakingly slow, but it is one of the great pleasures of a writing life.
I loved every minute of it.
Research – A Writer’s Responsibility and Joy