Episode 7: Research for Fiction Part 1

On August 25, 2018, Kasie welcomed contributors Bonnie Stanard and Rex Hurst into the studio. It’s Rex’s second appearance and Bonnie’s first. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

Rex Hurst, Fiction writer and English instructor

Bonnie Stanard, Historical Fiction author

Theme for the day

What and how do you research for your fiction?

Link to the Podcast Recording


  • Who we are and why we’re here
  • The topic for the week: Research for Fiction
  • Book discussion — currently reading and its analysis through the lens of the topic
  • Craft book discussion — The Seven Basic Plots

Segment 1

A little introduction about Bonnie Standard — what you write, where people can find it. When did you start writing and why? How do you publish and why? Then all the website, social handles, and other ways people can connect with you.

Rex Hurst — back for the second time and now a regular contributor — every week? Almost every week? Tell us about the book we’re hearing on commercial breaks, Across the Wounded Galaxy — why did you write it? Where can people get it?

I’m Kasie. I host #wschat on Tuesdays on Twitter and people can join this show on Twitter, too, using the hash tage #WriteOnSC post your questions, respond to the discussion. We’ll call you out on the next show. I also taught English at multiple colleges for several years and now teach entrepreneurship which is a kind of fiction. In my writing life, I have been submitting every single week to literary journals, magazines, and agents and publishers. I’ve had some moderate success with a few stories.

Segment 2:

Since my fantasy work is this literary fiction attempt to connect historic figures with fantasy narratives (Byron and vampires, the American Revolution with Neverland and fairies), I’m interested in the research component of the work. So let’s get into it.

Here’s Joanna Penn’s take on How to Research Your Novel (And When to Stop):

  • Research through reading and writing — “Books are made out of books,” – Cormac McCarthy
    • Read extensively in your genre — learn the rules, get the formulas and requirements
    • Fill the creative well — be inspired by others’ work and ideas
  • Research through travel — places you intend to set a story, places you might set a story
  • Research on Pinterest — or other visual social media; I have a pinterest board “Write This” which is all images of vampires and suchness

Stop researching:

  • Before it becomes procrastination
  • Before you upset the balance between creation and consumption
  • Before you spend too much time in the “research” part of your work

Seven tips (cuz bloggers love lists) from WritersEdit.com:

  1. Establish a system to organize and store research
  2. Read, read, read, and read some more (duh) — textbooks, the library, the internet, other works on the same subject
  3. Find other mediums — documentaries, films, videos, etc.
  4. Talk to people — who lived through it, or something similar, who research it, who write about it
  5. Visit the place — virtual tours or in real life
  6. Don’t forget to write — too much research is no bueno

Four Essential Rules from The Renegade Word blog:

  1. Don’t skip the research — a well-researched novel is one that enables readers to enjoy the story without questioning the legitimacy of the author’s work
  2. Research early and often — it’s okay to revisit some research activities as you’re creating, get a deeper or different sense of what you need
  3. Let research change your story for the better — when you discover archeological evidence of reality, build it into the story to strengthen the work
  4. Don’t let research run away with the beast — it can dominate your story; decide what to keep and what to file away as “good to know.”

Writer’s Digest has a list of 7 Tips, too:

  1. You can’t do too much research
  2. You can write what you know
  3. You can do research on the cheap
  4. You can find anything on YouTube
  5. You can find things anywhere — library, real life, neighbors, antique stores (where was your most surprising find?)
  6. You can use all your senses
  7. You can leave things out.

Cool podcast called The Well-Storied Podcast took on this topic in Episode #73. Here’s a link to that. And here are the highlights:

  • Start with a list of areas of interest — or places you know know you’ll need research on to flesh out in the story. We can share some examples of those places from our own work here.
  • Break those areas into smaller research topics — so Romantic Era might be broken into ladies fashion in 18-teens, publishing practices for Byron and contemporaries, stuff like that
  • Refine the List
  • Prioritize the topics — what do you need and what is a “nice to have”?
  • Create a research agenda — how many hours will you spend? Where will you begin? When will you stop? How will you record the data

This article also has tips for good research interviews.

Segment 4:

What we’re reading

Kasie — Just finished Legendary which is the follow-up to Caraval, both by Stephanie Garber, YA fantasy fiction, ended on a cliffhanger, so looking forward to the next book, Finale, which will be released in May of 2019.

Craft Book:

This month we’re taking on The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker.

This is a great examination of the seven basic plots and he makes a good argument that all novels can find themselves in one of these. This week, I’ll feature the Rags-to-Riches story since that’s a classic Writer Fantasy. Think JK Rowling and other authors who have “made it.”

The section of the book dealing with tragedy makes this bold claim: All satisfying stories end in one of two ways — lovers united or death.

The death is usually violent, unnatural, and tragic. So tragedy is its own sub-category of the 7 Basic Plots. Booker says tragedies unfold in these phases:

  • Anticipation stage — where the hero is in some way unfulfilled but identifies what it is that will correct that
  • Dream stage — where he becomes committed to his course of action; a sense of urgency is created, it has to begin now for some reason
  • Frustration stage — things begin to go wrong, whether it’s a foil, an antagonist, or just obstacles, there are things that prevent the hero from prevailing
  • Nightmare stage — things are slipping seriously out of the hero’s control, raise the stakes, mounting threats and despair
  • Destruction and death — or the end.

He then goes on to break down each stage by the requirements of the stage, the common characteristics of the stage, and how you know the book is in that stage. It’s very compelling. Let’s discuss. Do we really see traditional tragedy anymore? What are some examples?

Final thoughts:

Link to the blog / show notes

Link to the Facebook page for questions for next week’s episode

Remind them of the Twitter discussion with #WriteOnSC as the hash tag

Support Write On SC through Patreon.

2 Comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s