What makes great fiction? Facts.
That’s what made The Da Vinci Code so awesome that I could not stop reading it. Sure, the characters were invented, as was the plot, but that’s about as far as the fiction went. The amount of research that Dan Brown must have done regarding the Catholic Church, the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail, the Priory of Sion, the Bible, Cryptography, art, history, etc., just to create this masterpiece of literature astounds me.
It was 2:30 in the morning when I read the part about Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting, “The Last Supper,” which depicts Jesus and the twelve apostles. Or does it? The story suggests that the person to the left of Jesus, as you’re looking at the painting, is in fact a woman, Mary Magdalene. I quickly pulled up the image on my computer and stared in awe. (I’ll pause here while you check it out.)
I think that’s where a lot of authors come up short. We spend so much time inventing our stories, we forget one thing that makes a book appealing to readers—believability. That’s what makes a person connect and relate to the story.
Do your research and lots of it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people to be a contributor, someone who’s been there, done that. For example, if you’re writing a book about a short, fat, bald guy who’s always broke, yet you really don’t know exactly what that’s like, give me a call.
I recently finished my second novel, a legal thriller, and sent the manuscript to several people to preview. My sister, who is a 14 year veteran police officer and investigator, called me to tell me her thoughts on the scene where they show up with an arrest warrant. After she stopped laughing, I asked her to tell me how it would really happen—and she did.
Besides my sister, I ended up with several other contributors: a retired judicial assistant, a D.C. attorney, a retired school teacher, a Major in the Air Force, and an inmate of the Montgomery County jail. (That’s right—I have friends in high and low places.) All made the story stronger than it would have been with me guessing.
Of course this wouldn’t apply to Science Fiction and Fantasy books. I doubt Stephenie Meyer did a lot of research on real werewolves and vampires. If she had, she would have learned that vampires do not sparkle when sunlight hits them—they explode. Everyone knows that. Sheesh!
Remember, due diligence is key so keep it real.
Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist