With our lecture at Indiana University now history, we’re focusing on our next public appearance at CraftFest in New York. On July 11, 2013 at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street, Michael will be teaching a class at 10:00 am in the Carnegie/Alvin room entitled “Research and the Willing Suspension of Disbelief.” Willing suspension of disbelief is the pact between an author and his readers. In short, it can be defined as “I will tell you a made up-tale and you will believe it.” As part of the bargain, the author must make his story as believable as possible. To do that, he must not only make his characters and their motivation credible, but his facts must be in order.
This is where research comes in. If an author makes a mistake, for example, has the wrong weapon in the wrong time, not only does his story become suspect, but the reader asks, “If I can’t believe his facts, why should I believe in the motivation of his characters?” It has happened to all of us. We’ve been reading a rollicking good story and suddenly, something so jarring slaps us across the face with impossibility. One of the biggest “I don’t think so” moments for us is when a character gets shot in the leg or shoulder, and sneaks out of the hospital to take the fight back to the bad guy. Knowing anatomy and terminal ballistics as we do, we’re usually evaluating the damage. “Oh, shot in the chest. That’s smashed the third and fourth rib, hydrostatic shock has taken out the brachial artery and possibly the aorta as well as the upper lobe of the lung.”
Why then is the character driving a stolen truck in a mad chase through city streets in the next scene?
PEOPLE OF THE MORNING STAR will be out in May of 2014. It’s a thriller set in the great city of Cahokia at around 1200 C.E.. Writing thrillers set in prehistory is a particularly daunting challenge. Not only do we have to keep the plot tight, with short scenes common to the thriller genre, but we have to build and describe a world foreign to most modern readers without slowing the story. And most of all, it has to be believable. When we got started writing the PEOPLE books, American publishers were pushing “prehistory” novels, and contracting with lots of authors to write them. At a book trade show we met a couple of our new colleagues, and will never forget the established romance author who beamed at us, saying, “I just love writing prehistory. No one knows anything about it so you can make up anything you want.”
Fact is, yes, we do know quite a bit about these prehistoric cultures. It is only through research that we can write about them in depth, and with credibility. So far it has kept us in the game while the others are long gone. Why? Because at heart, the readers understood that other authors had been broken the covenant. The author had failed to establish the credibility of the story through sufficient research. If the worlds they created smelled fishy, who could believe the story?
For more, we’ll see you in New York on July 11th at CraftFest. You must register to attend, and if you’re a budding novelist, you will learn valuable lessons. Meanwhile, we’ll continue researching extensively.