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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Beth Caudill

Research! Research! Research!

Okay, I’m a research book nut. I have crystals, herbs, fashion, musical instruments, and animals crowding my bookshelves. There are craft books, maps, faery tales, etiquette, political and philosophical guides. I won’t say I have everything, but I have two bookcases worth and the pile keeps growing.

But wait, you write about imaginary worlds and creatures. Doesn’t that mean you make all that stuff up? Well, yes and no. You have to have a touch of reality. The reader would not understand a palm tree in the middle of a swamp without a very good explanation. My job as a writer is to get the reader to feel comfortable with something different by relating it to the familiarity of everyday life.

In this excerpt from Healer’s Fate, I tried to get across information about how my werewolves lived on the made-up planet Arilase by talking about the food they ate:

Corliss turned into the restaurant of the new hotel and sat at the bar. While the bartender prepared her peach spritzer, she scanned the area. Nature prints from all over Arilase decorated the burgundy and tan walls.

In her immediate area she saw a prairie desert, a mountain river, and grasslands. Half the tables were already filled and a line had formed around the hostess desk. A good sign for business.

Her gaze drifted back to the mountain scene. A herd of elkan—large, curly-coated, four-hoofed grazers—drank from the river. It reminded her that the next hunt would be her responsibility.

While eating moderately cooked meat in human form would satisfy the wolf, every three months a shifter needed to hunt in animal form and eat raw meat.

In the past, this task had fallen to Mollie as the strongest female below the Alphena. As Liam’s mate, the job became hers. And none too soon, in her opinion. Mollie could, on occasion, be lazy and selected herds close to the home village.

Several groups had been over-culled while others grew too large. She made a mental note to confer with the outer boundary scouts on the best area for hunting.

In my research, I found wolf packs in winter will hunt down animals like caribou, reindeer, and the occasional moose. By naming my wolves' food source similar to an elk, I could get an image in the readers mind but still be on another planet. BTW, a great resource about wolves for both information and pictures is The Art of Being a Wolf by Anne Menatory.

So don’t skip over those reference books in the discount pile, you never know what you might need for a story


Lisa said...

Good advice Beth! It makes sense that a reader will only invest their time in a story that has factual or at least believable details. And that takes research.

robynl said...

thanks for letting us into your world of writing today.

Teresa D'Amario said...

Great advice, Beth. I think alot of folks don't understand, what makes paranormal/fantasy romance so popular, is the strong foundation of reality laid out just beneath the surface.

If there's not enough reality in the books, then there's nothing for the reader to grasp hold of and make the story believable. The more fantastical the world, the more real the "normal" stuff must be!

Beth Caudill said...

Lisa - Research and an ability to make the unbelievable into reality. As a reader, I can suspend my disbelief real far....but even I have a limit some writers hit where I go that will never work. And then I stop reading.

Robynl - You're welcome. Thanks for dropping by.

Teresa - Exactly. I think you have to have at least one anchor for the reader to base themselves in.

Easy areas for me are home or food. Everyone needs a place to sleep or something to eat. If you can relate the reader to something they know, then you can take them along on your wild ride.