Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Details, Details!

While working on my novel last night, I had to stop for a moment and do a bit of research. Luckily, I have primary sources (my novel takes place at a POW camp, the same one I wrote about for my MA thesis) and I can just look in my files for what I need. It's amazing what tiny details I need and how overwhelming it can be just to find those details.

One detail in particular...I had my hero standing at his window, looking out at the guard tower spotlights searching the POW camp. But when I read the guard regulations manual, I found that the only time they had the spotlights searching the camp was when they saw something suspicious. Otherwise, the fence lights kept the place well-lit.

While it was a minor detail and no one probably would have cared if I kept it the way it was, it still unnerved me a bit. I want to be as accurate as possible, but I know there are certain things I'm going to have to work around. Finding out the minute details of a prisoner's life are incredibly difficult. Although I am working with a diary, he didn't record certain details, like what the barracks looked like inside or what the camp looked like in general. Although I have pictures, I don't have very detailed ones.

But on the other hand, his diary has been of great use to me in both my thesis and this novel. I have found out so much about him that I've been able to use in my main character. It's exciting to write.

I had a moment of doubt last night when I thought, will this find a market? But then I shoved the thought away. It's a good story. And even if it doesn't find a market, I don't care. I want to write it. So I will. :-)


  1. I had a moment of doubt last night when I thought, will this find a market? But then I shoved the thought away. It's a good story.

    The best approach! Writing what you're supposed to write rather than writing the unique thing only you are empowered to write is a one-lane exit ramp to the dilapidated part of town.

    I really appreciated the spolight detail. We're all hit over the head with the mantra "write what you know," but I really stick to it now. I feel I can only breathe life into something I personally know either by first hand experience or extensive research. Superficial knowledge comes off as two dimensional.

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  3. I love research. Like you, I truly believe that the more realistic your verifiable facts are, the more willing your audience will be to suspend disbelief about everything else.

    For me (since I write fantasy), this is crutial. But I love that you're so committed to historical accuracy.

    Dana has kind of turned me onto historicals, and yours sounds pretty interesting, now that I know what I was missing. Good luck with it!

  4. I think its a great story and will find an audience. I know what you mean about the details. I get hung up on them too.

  5. Good luck with it! I'm so not a detail person, at least not to that extent. Which is probably a big reason I write contemporary. lol

  6. I think that's a great attitude to have. You might not know where it could find a home, but you want to write it and you are!

  7. That's the mark of a storyteller, I think - wanting to make the story accurate as possible and loving the story enough to tell it despite where the market goes.

  8. I love reading about the small details. It sounds like a fun story! Keep going!

  9. Anonymous7:08 AM

    As an ex German Prisoner of War (now aged 91), I can tell you that you could never be certain when the lights would come on or off. You only hoped that if an escape was planned you would be lucky enough for the lights to have come off!!

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