The key to a good novel, I am told, is first and foremost to write a great story. Huh, that seems simple enough. Makes sense, right?
I have found that one of the best ways to develop a good story is doing proper research. Not just your topic, or your genre, or your location, or characters. All of them need research – everything needs to be researched. And this, my friends, is a lot of work.
Admittedly, my topics seem fairly easy to cover. We have a world, just without any power, computers, or running cars. Except, some cars will still run, according to the experts I've found. Anything without an onboard computer will still probably run. Notice the probably. So I dug in good and hard to make sure I got my facts straight.
No computers equals huge issue. We use computers for everything now days. To quote Bill's next door, know-it-all neighbor Ted from my recent novel, "even ocean vessels run on computers now." Food deliveries are going to be an issue that means. Cane sugar from South America for instance. I know, a minor example, but I'm sure you can think of many better ones.
Oil will no longer flow in any of our pipelines ... anywhere. That means those few working cars are only going to have so much fuel to burn. And with no electricity just how are they going to pump our fuel? The crisis deepens.
I'm not just making this stuff up. I've actually looked into all of it. And the prospects in this disaster are bleak. Honestly, that's making it sound like we actually stand a chance.
In my first few books I plucked physical bodies from my pool of people and those I found on the internet. I changed everyone's name, gave them so new unique quirks, and completely overhauled their personalities (to fit my particular needs). Now days, I make each character from scratch. Height, weight, eye color, hair color, family background, birth dates – everything.
But here's another issue. Certain eye/hair combinations are rare. So I need to make them as close to believable as possible. Do your research. The average American of Scandinavian descent is so tall and weighs so much. More research. And just how much will the average person lose in weight as their caloric intake dwindles? More research.
Sure, I could just make some of this up, but then it would give me a diminished end product. And believe me, someone out there would be more than happy to point out my flaws.
For a recent manuscript, I researched how many cows it would take to feed 7800 people if they were given a quarter pound of burger per week. And what would the birthrate need to be to sustain the herd. How many cows would I need to make this possible? How many bulls are needed to produce a certain birthrate amongst said cows? How about mortality rates for calf births? Now is one thing; what about if they aren't fed as well as they are now? Kind of a quagmire I've created. But I love doing this.
Again, I suppose you can just make it all up. Not me though. I want readers to be able to have confidence that what I produce is realistic. Hopefully it never happens, but at least if it ever does you'll have an idea what you're in for.
In WWIV – In The Beginning I have taken away so many things you have today. And realistically, that's what would happen when whatever happens, happens!
Keep reading people. It gives you something to do beside watch the TV.