Research Suggestion For Writers To Better Their Story

Research is an important tool for writers. Whether you are writing a western or a police procedural story, for example, you want details to be accurate. But there is another type of research that is just as important.

You want your characters to be real, ones readers can identify with. They have a type of personality, they have motivations,  they have strengths and insecurities. So in creating a character there is also research involved. Let me give an example.

I am writing a murder mystery. The victim is a young woman. We know nothing about her. She is fished out of a canal on the first page. During the course of the novel we learn about her and not just facts, more about who she is behind the facts.

I need to research the type of woman I want her to be. So I look at a book entitled Women Who Run With the Wolves.  The book contains myths and stories of the wild woman archetype. I focus on four chapters. One contains mythical stories about women as naïve prey. Another chapter is Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter. The point is to learn about the mythical and psychological aspects of who this woman is, to give flesh and blood to her.

I am also reading Love and Limerence which is providing some great insight into men and women, about what love is and what it might not be.

I am also checking through Games People Play by Dr. Eric Byrne, about the psychological games we play-and there are many. This will help when her friends talk about her, telling specific stories indicating something of her character, her nature.

There are many books to chose from, not just books like The Meaning of Persons or Please Understand Mebut books on mythology from countries around the world.

The more research you do about the psychology of people, of archetypes, of mythology, the more you see who your character is going to become. The character will be real, will be someone readers can understand. All because of research.

Of course, since my story takes place in 1928, I need to research fashion, automobiles, all the little details, something of the times, making sure nobody watch’s TV or uses a cellphone. Writers always take the time to get those things correct, but we should never take for granted the characters to be created. Not how to create them.


Off-the-Wall Books for Writers

Creative writers own books on writing. Those books are easy to find, but there are other books that writers can learn from, ones you may not think about and I am here to help.

Games People Play by Eric Berne. It is a basic book about transactional analysis. STOP. Don’t get scared and run away. This book has sold millions and was published back in 1964. The title says it all. People play games; life games, marital games, sexual games, underworld games, and on and on. None of it on video by the way. This is how people interact, the games we play with each other. This is good for writers to develop characters. What type of person is your character? How about the “If it weren’t for you game.” A character who blames other people for holding them back in some way. A writer can learn how the game is played and how the person plays it out and use that trait in developing  a character. An insightful book on human behavior, one that can make a writers characters real.

I will pause here before continuing to scary books for advanced writers.  Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik is not only a fun read, but one whose message is we should forget the classic book on writing style “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White  because it is wrong, at least for today’s writers. And when you read the book you will agree. Crisp, witty, perceptive, Plotnik makes the profound simple and delightful.

And now for post graduate work.

Berne’s book will work for any creative writer. but if you want something more advanced and you want to write something complex, say along the lines of Dostoyevsky you may want to dive into Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. It won a Pulitzer Prize winner and is in one word-challenging. The book talks about the philosopher Kierkegaard, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, how we deny death, psychology, religion, and the heroic individual. You can run away now if you like, or you could read Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. An excellent book for reading about dreams, symbols, deep psychological and cultural meanings. This is a book for those who seek metaphor. So if you have a bent for James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and the like this book will be helpful.

Or you can pick up any book on mythology and use those cast of characters to draw from, giving them new names and new stories and in doing so, you create a new mythos using previously created symbols and metaphors. And you can bypass those ‘heavy’ books. Aren’t you glad you didn’t run away?

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