Guest Post by Matthew Peters, Author of The Brothers’ Keepers
It took me a long time to realize that writing effective fiction involves as much, if not more, research than writing credible non-fiction. Realizing this is truly half the battle.
Developing/researching the story took as much time as writing the book.
I began with a very general idea, involving a possible religious document found in the aftermath of a murder. Next, I thought about the kind of people that would populate my story world. I wanted the protagonist to be smart, and I knew the Jesuits were among the best educated orders in the Church. But that was about all I knew. So I researched the Jesuits and eventually became fascinated by them. One book led to another and before long I had settled on the idea that the murder case should be linked to a treasure.
Next, I determined if my idea had been done before. I searched for my proposed topic on Amazon using the qualifier “fiction,” to see what novels were out there. Once I felt sure the idea hadn’t been done to death, I searched through relevant non-fiction sources. Again, Amazon was helpful in this regard. Through reading more I laid flesh on the bones of the argument. I can’t overemphasize how important reading/research was to the development of my story. In my opinion, the best books are written while reading.
That’s how I developed the story’s overall structure.
Next, came the research relevant to each chapter. The Brothers’ Keepers takes place in a variety of countries and locations. People have asked me how many of these places I actually visited. I am rather proud to say none of them. What I did was research each one to the best of my ability using books, articles, dissertations, Google Earth and Street View.
While amassing information through research is a good thing, the issue ultimately arises as to how to use it without sounding too much like a lecture. As a former college professor, I’ve written lots of lectures, so I had to be extra careful. There is also a natural tendency to want to use every iota of information gleaned through hours of research.
The way I solved this was to write the first draft in such a way that I got out all the historical information necessary to the story. Subsequent drafts parsed this info to its bare essentials. Later drafts focused on incorporating the info as smoothly as possible—and only the information crucial to the storyline. This was done with the help of several readers, who were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to offer feedback. It is my sincere belief that it takes a village to write a book, and The Brothers’ Keepers was no different in this respect.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Dual diagnosed* from an early age, Matthew Peters dropped out of high school at sixteen. He went on to obtain an A.A., a B.A. from Vassar College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. He has taught various courses in a variety of disciplines throughout North Carolina. He is committed to increasing the awareness and understanding of the dual diagnosed. In addition to The Brothers’ Keepers, he is the author of Conversations Among Ruins, which features a dual diagnosed protagonist. Currently, he is working on a sequel to The Brothers’ Keepers.
*The term dual diagnosed refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder (e.g., depression) and chemical dependency.
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