Friday, December 23, 2005


At this point in Wiesner's outlining method, you are allotted seven days to do "background research." This is as important in fiction as it is in non-fiction. Nothing will turn off a reader faster than getting the facts blatently wrong. Even in fantasy or science fiction, once you have established the "rules" of your universe, you're bound by those rules. Your background research in this case may consist of formulating those rules, or in making sure you follow reality where you claim you are doing so. In science fiction, it's particularly important to get your background right, as the average science ficition reader is not going to allow you many outright mistakes (or even things that look like mistakes) at all. Wiesner recommends interviewing experts in the various subjects and keeping a file of those interview notes for use in all of your work.

In my case, I'm in the enviable position of being one of those experts, at least for a lot of the fields of physics, astronomy, and space exploration. Having worked at NASA as a spaceflight engineer is a huge advantage in writing science fiction, so I really count myself lucky. In fantasy, of course, I'm as clueless as the next guy -- which may be why I tend to write science fiction instead! :) In spite of all of this, I do background research of a sort. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I like ot map out the locations my characters will be living and interacting in. Part of it is just because I enjoy it, of course -- I am a confessed cartophile, after all. But I do find that it really helps for me to a have map of the area while I'm writing, so I know (for instance) how long it takes to walk from one location to another. As a side benefit, I can often sell these maps and descriptions (with a lot of extra material) to gaming magazines as campaign settings, so in some sense I'm killing two (or three) birds with one stone.

The main thing is to do whatever you need to do in order to really see the place or action in your mind. Once you can do that, you're golden!

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