I’ve been working hard for almost an hour trying to say the right thing in this post. Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: It’s important to know as much as you can about your subject. For instance, for my new novel, “Ryder Mann”, which is a Western set in the Arizona and New Mexico territories in 1903, I had to know when these two territories became states and why it took them so long to join the United States.
What I found out was that Arizona and New Mexico joined in 1912. And one of the reasons that it took them so long to become states was because of all the violence and crime in these territories. They were the definition of the untamed and wild west, the last hold outs.
I also needed to know about the Arizona Rangers. The Texas Rangers were formed before Texas separated from Mexico and still exist today. But the Arizona Rangers only existed for a little more than a decade, from 1901 to 1912 , when they disbanded.
I also needed to know about the fire arms of that period. I’m familiar with modern fire arms and the fire arms of the Old West, but weapons were changing in the late 1890s and early 1900s.
And I also needed to know about automobiles in that time period. The technology for cars exploded in the 1900s, but in 1903 cars were still quite primitive. Gasoline engines were set on platforms of buggies previously pulled by horses. There were breaks and accelerators, but no gears. You went forward and you turned around, but you didn’t back up. The steering column came straight up through the floor and the steering wheel was horizontal, not vertical like today.
See, these are things I needed to know. When I write science fiction, I’m creating whole new worlds based on possibilities being dreamed up today. (There really are scientists trying figure out if we can create a warp drive and energy screens, artificial gravity, some sort inertial damper, and maybe even transporters. But all these things are more in the visionary period right now rather than in the engineering and construction phase.)
So, my point is, know everything you can. For instance, if you’re a city dweller and writing about farmers in the MidWest, research everything you can about farmers in the MidWest. Don’t write about farmers driving home after attending the Festival in town. Farmers don’t go to festivals. They go to parades, they go to fairs, they go to auctions, they good to dinners, they go to dances, they go to banquets, they go to plays and the movies, they even go to the farmer’s market. I’ve never heard a farmer say, “I’m going to the farm festival.” But I have heard them say, “I’m going to the Farm Bureau Dinner.” Or, “I can’t wait for the Grange Dance.” Or, “The Elks are giving a banquet.”
I recently read an internet story about a family in Nebraska returning from the farm festival in Omaha. It’s set in the early 1950s and they see a Ford Mustang zipping past them on the road. As far I know, Ford didn’t even make a Mustang then.
This wasn’t meant as a fantasy or a dream, the writer meant it as a serious story.
It’s important to know your facts so your reader doesn’t think that you’re stupid, or worse yet, that you don’t care about your reader and that your reader will buy into anything that you write. Some will, because they won’t know the facts. But with Smart Phones, it won’t take them long to discover that you don’t know your facts and that you don’t respect your readers.
That’s all I have to say for now.
See you out there.