Writing What You Know ~ Brigham Vaughn: Outside the Margins

Join us as Brigham Vaughn goes Outside the Margins.

Brigham-Vaughn-OtMWriting What You Know

They say “write what you know”.   I feel like I should have listened, because right now I am delving into topics I feel utterly unprepared to write about.  When I set the Equals book in Atlanta, it was a fairly random choice.  I didn’t know the characters well yet and their backstory built slowly as I wrote.  I had only planned to write the one novella and since it was focused more on the characters interaction (within a fairly limited setting) my research was more or less limited to geography, real estate, and climate.

When it became a series I began to panic.  The second novella, Partners, threw me into a frenzy of research.  Having lived in Michigan my whole life, I knew little about Georgia.  Even less about rural Georgia, but Google was supremely helpful.  I spent many hours on Google Earth zooming around a tiny town that my fictional town of Putnam was loosely based on.  I researched funeral homes and Baptist funeral services.  Climate and insects.  Anything I could search for to help the setting feel more authentic.

Right now I am simultaneously working on the final novella in the Equals series, and a spin off novel about a character, Evan, who Russ met in Partners. The timelines overlap so I’m working on both at the same time so the characters evolve naturally and I don’t end up with strange conflicts between the two.

The novella for Russ and Stephen is going well, with an expected amount of research. Evan’s story however?  groans It’s been painful.  Evan was initially meant to be a minor character with just a brief part in the one book, but he took on a life of his own and demanded his own story.  I heard back from my betas, my editor, my readers, and Brandilyn herself about wanting to hear Evan’s story and it didn’t take much brainstorming for me to realize I needed to tell his story too.  Which, as of this week, is titled Connection.

Other than the handful of funerals I’ve been to in my life, I know next to nothing about the way a funeral home is run or the training required to be employed in one.  I’ve been doing frantic research since and sorting through the information to try to make sense of it.  I kept hitting dead ends and getting lost.

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Last weekend, I contacted a local funeral home to see if they would be willing to help me with some of the basics.  They haven’t responded, but an offhand comment on FB led to a friend of a friend who works as a funeral director and I had an in depth conversation with her about job duties.  I also found two books written by people in the funeral industry so I can get their perspectives.

The last thing I want to do is put out a book with inaccuracies and the more research I can do, the better.  For all my jokes about wishing I’d stuck with the character having a job I know more about, I enjoy learning new things.  I like the opportunity to explore topics and ideas I am unfamiliar with.

And I am even more awed by the many authors who do intense research about a topic they know nothing of in order to write a story.  They have my utmost respect because I’m starting to understand just how much work it entails.

It looks like Connection is going to be my trial by fire when it comes to research.  So do I still think I should write what I know?  Right now I might say yes, but I have a feeling once the story comes together in its final form I’ll feel differently.

As a reader, do you like when an author pushes the limits of what he or she is familiar with and explores a new topic?  Authors, do you enjoy the mental challenge of delving into something completely new? I’d like to hear back from you.


Equals-Cover-1-Final Title: Equals
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance

Too busy to date while he worked to put himself through school, Russell Bishop’s dedication finally pays off; he has a great job with Vantage Marketing. Stephen Parker, CFO of the marketing firm, has resigned himself to a life without a partner. For six months, they wanted each other but it isn’t until Russ slips on spilled coffee, and Stephen rushes to his rescue that they discover their attraction is mutual. However, the twenty year age gap between them proves difficult when they begin dating. Fiercely independent, Russ isn’t sure he’s ready for long-term commitment. Scarred from a previous relationship, Stephen is afraid history is repeating itself. Is there any way for them to meet in the middle and become equals?

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~ Brigham Vaughn

About Brigham Vaughn

Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell. After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked. Now she’s eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. In the little time that isn’t spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year-old home. Brigham lives in Michigan with her three cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.

Contact Brigham:
Email: brighamvaughn@gmail.com
Website: brighamvaughn.wordpress.com
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Twitter: @AuthorBVaughn
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Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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3 thoughts on “Writing What You Know ~ Brigham Vaughn: Outside the Margins

  1. Great post, Brigham. As a reader, I can’t really say if I like or don’t like when an author goes outside their comfort zone. I think what matters to me most as a reader (and a writer) is if the author goes outside ‘what they know’, that they researched their topic thoroughly. There’s nothing more disappointing as a reader to be into a story because of the concept/storyline/plot/characters, but then the author gets something so consistently wrong because they didn’t do their research that it takes away from what could have been great. As a person, I like research so that worked in to my writing naturally– finding out new things and incorporating that newness into a storyline/character, instead of sticking to just what I know. And it’s really exciting; it keeps me on my toes in progressing a story. I’ve found that if I stick just with what I know, I slip into lecture mode very easily.

  2. Sadly I have to admit that I probably only notice the lack of research. If it’s done correctly I will, after finishing the book, think that the author did a great job because I was completely drawn into the story. But I don’t, in most cases, know how much research it took although I am discovering that there is a lot more research than I ever would have thought. 🙂

  3. I agree with Allison. I only notice when the research isn’t done. I pick up on issues with firearms all the time – especially when written by women. Magazines being slapped into revolvers… Bullets being loaded instead of cartridges… And my personal favorite, the bad guy pulling the trigger with his thumb. I’m sorry, but…WTF?? That one requires nothing more than picking up a squirt gun and trying it. It’s almost impossible unless you’re shooting yourself.

    Research is why Jean Auel took seven years to write each of the books in her Clan of the Cave Bear series. And she started before the internet – imagine what *that* would be like, huh? She had to not only research Neanderthal people, but also create maps of what the earth’s land masses may have looked like back then.

    I’ve been working on my homeless guys and it’s proving to be more of a challenge than I expected. What works fine for a short flash fiction won’t fly for a fully fleshed out story. Suffice it to say, there will be no rimming. All snark aside, it’s also been heartbreaking, eyeopening and educational.

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