Writing Tip for the Week: Research

8-30-2010 pville 004 50aIf you are a writer, then you should be a reader. Much of our writing comes from our own experience. However, we often need more than that. That’s what we need is research.

Right now I’m banging out another Western. Over the years, I have read a lot of history on the Western United States. But right now finding out that I must dig deeper into a certain locality. So I have a bunch of books coming in on the subject. I will hold my writing a bit until they get here.

detectiveWhen you buy history books, often can buy them for very little money. Used books are a dime a dozen. So there is no reason not to have a good collection of books you need.

In our writing, we can use actual historical events. That is, we can place our characters in a historical setting. That can enrich our writing.

Well, I’ve got to saddle up and ride out here.


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Writing Tip of the Week: Watch Those Characters

tjb logoOne thing that happens to fiction writers is that they get into the brain of the writer. Before long, they will be taking over the story. Just make sure it is your story even if they are the actors.

OK, I’m guilty. Peter Ott,  a gunman, tried to take over Bull: A Western Saga. He was becoming more important than Bull, the protagonist. I had to rewrite many parts of the book making sure that Bull was performing the main actions, not Peter Ott.

Well, Peter Ott won anyway. I published Revenge on the Mogollon Rim where he is he protagonist and only yesterday, I put Out of Durango up on Amazon (ebook). I’m still guilty. I started another Peter Ott Novel.

Here is One Way to Identify Characters Before You Write

1. Look for pics that might resemble your character, don’t choose a real character. Look in books, magazine ads and such.

2. Look for clothing your character might wear. Pattern books are good at the sewing store. So are old catalogs.

3. Look for things your character might use. Catalogs again or history books.

4. Block out the Time Period in a  couple of paragraphs including customs and such. What did they eat?

5. Right a bio for your character and a short history.

6. Add items that make your character YOUR character. What a grouch!

A file for a major character will be larger than one for a secondary character. Put the file on our computer so you can grab it when you need it.


Novel Writing Books

Novel Writing Software

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Writing Tip of the Week 09/17/14: When Was That?

tjb logoWhen writing, make sure you don’t mix generations.

In other words today folks do not talk the way they did a century ago, even a few decades ago.

For example, my folks who were born in 1900 and 1901, lived quite differently than the way we do today.

Silver City Utah where my mother was born in a tent.

Silver City Utah where my mother was born in a tent.

Mother was born in a tent city in a mining camp in the boonies of Utah. My father was born over a bar in Bountiful, Utah (now a historical site) and was kidnapped by Ute Indians when he was 10 days old.

My parents in their early lives did not have plumbing, electricity, automobiles or telephones. In fact, we did not have a telephone in our home until about 1944 (as I remember).

Dad saw his first car when he was about 10 years old. The family doctor gave him a ride.

Sage Creek Ghost Town

Sage Creek Ghost Town

He took off for Randolph, Utah about that age, driving a cow behind his folks wagon. He lived the wild life of ranching until he was in his early twenties. He drove his siblings to Sage Creek to school. Wolves followed the sleigh so he packed a 30-06 rifle.

Mother moved from the mining towns of Utah about the same time.

Can you think of words in our present vocabulary that my parents never used? (They died in 1988 and 1990.)

Make Sure You Research the Generations you Write About

My folks knew nothing about automobiles, telephones, electricity, indoor plumbing or such when they were young.

I knew nothing about telephones or television or rockets or satellites or nuclear energy when I was young.

No one could do anything about my sisters affliction with polio and she died at age 19.

Atomic bombs drop on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, ending WWII

Atomic bombs drop on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, ending WWII

I learned about the atomic bomb at the end of the war in 1945 when I was 13 years old.

Sputnik 1957

Sputnik 1957





Sputnik showed up over Colorado after I got out of college in October of 1957.

My folks did not get a TV until well after WWII. I don’t remember seeing a TV in their home when I got home from Korea.

I do remember that my friend’s family had a TV and we saw a blurry George Gobble and Milton Berle.

Here are some of the things that change with time over the generations.

1. The language and vocabulary.

2. How people live.

3. Clothing and Dress

4. Technology

5. Science

6. Social Norms

7. Religion and Religious Concepts

8. Medicine

9. Art and Culture.

10. How People Earn their Living

11. Government

12. Wars and How they are fought.

I have a replica of an old Sears Catalog. Amazon has a bunch of Sears Catalog ReproductionsI also  have a Montgomery Ward Catalog reproduction. You can look back over the years and see what people were wearing and using and eating and the medicines they were taking and lots of other interesting facts of past times.

You will want to read about Customs and Cultures for the geographical region and times you are writing about.



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Writing Tip of the Week: The Story is Everything

tjb logoEither write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin (thanks to brainyquote.com)

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Gustave Flaubert (thanks to brainyquote.com)

Years ago I wrote Bone China: A Richard Lacey Detective Mystery. I simply wanted to write a detective novel so I started writing with no idea where Lacey and his wife, Marilyn would take me. As the novel developed, characters entered, each screaming to take over the novel. I struggled on until I was finished.

That’s when I chucked the novel and all my typing and hard work into the garbage can. I rewrote the novel from front to back in a few days. I eliminated characters who were not needed and took out everything that took away from the story.

Of course, by writing the first draft, I had learned what the story really was. When I knew that, I was very excited to complete the work.

Incidentally, I never tell anyone what this story is really about in blurbs about the novel or on he cover. I want my readers to be as totally surprised as I was when Lacey learned what was going on. Sometimes I wish I had spilled the beans to sell more novels, but I never did. I never will.

But the story (called the plot in writing parlance) is everything. If you don’t have the story at first, you have to dig for it. Then you can complete the work.


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