Monday, December 10, 2018

Guest Post - John R. Beyer

Why Research is the Key to any Writing

John R. Beyer

Walking beneath the rain forest canopy at midnight was both a beautiful and simultaneously, a terrifying experience. There were the deep barking sounds of the capybara – the largest rodent in the world weighing up to nearly 150 pounds – as they clambered across the forest floor or climbed up the massive trees for a bite of fruit. Our flashlights picked up long lines of leaf cutter ants scurrying near our hiking boots as they did their nightly duty of collecting whatever the Queen had ordered. A slight movement on a low hanging branch revealed a solitary assassin bug waiting patiently for its prey to come within range.
With the assistance of a trained guide, we made our way through mile after mile of narrow paths cut into the jungle itself. There are no paved roads here; only muddy foot paths for visitors and residents alike. It’s not easy traveling, but then again, nothing is easy within the Peruvian rain forest just steps from the ever-flowing Amazon.
A four-hour boat trip along the huge and muddy river in a fifty foot dugout was the only way to make the journey to a mosquito netted jungle encampment. This would be our home as I completed the research I needed for the novel ‘Iquitos, The Past Will Kill,’ and ending a month long adventure in the jungles of the Amazon. Alongside me was my number one traveling companion, my wife Laureen, as well as our best friend and cameraman, Paul Bakas.
I was once asked during a radio interview what the most important thing to keep in mind about when writing fiction?
My reply was simple and to the point:  You must write fiction as though it is nonfiction.
Readers want to travel to interesting locales, meet intriguing characters and be involved in emotionally gripping plots. It is the job of the writer to deliver on those desires. Research and more research is a must for any fictional storyteller to enable them to create a story which feels real to the reader.
There is nothing worse than staring at a page in a novel and knowing the words do not match reality. I remember reading a novel by a famous author with Hollywood credentials behind his name, about an assassin using a particular type of gun with a silencer. Of course, being a former law enforcement officer, it didn’t ring true. I researched and confirmed what I suspected: the type of weapon the author described would never have worked for that purpose. It turned out the revolver was much too loud for an assassin’s job. That might sound picky, but it ruined the flow of the story of for me. These details are critical in making stories believable for your readers. And, big Hollywood name or not, we can’t take such details for granted. It’s the details that matter. The details that make an otherwise good painting into a masterpiece. The details make a decent story into a great or a not-so-great novel.
When writing any piece, a novel or short story, I am always careful to ensure that what I type is as accurate as it can be. I want my reader to feel confident that what they are reading is so close to the truth that it becomes the truth – even for just the moment. The fiction becomes the momentary reality. If I am going to write something then I must do my best to experience what I am writing about. That is the purpose of my research.
For a writer, in my opinion, the research is the most critical aspect of any writing. A plot can be strong and characters interesting, but if it sounds like fiction upon completion then it wasn’t worth writing.
Another reason I research is to travel. I love visiting foreign locales, meeting people and experiencing new cultures. It is a side benefit to this world of writing!


Former street cop, training officer and member of SWAT John Beyer has been writing most of his life. He’s traveled to at least 23 countries (and was actually shot in the head in Spain in 2000 during a march between Neo Nazis and Communists two days after running with the bulls in Pamplona). He was caught in a hurricane off the coast of east Baja (Bahia de los Angeles) while kayaking and lived to tell about it. Essentially, it’s hard to tell where experience leaves off and fiction takes over. You’ll want to read his books.

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