Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The 5 W's of Story: Researching the Setting in Jacqui Murray's Survival of the Fittest

The 5 W's of Story

Hello and welcome to the Focused on Story blog. This week, talented author Jacqui Murray joins us for the popular series, The 5 W's in Storytelling. Guest authors share the who, what, where, when and why in their stories. I'm thrilled to introduce a new-to-me kind of fictional story by Jacqui Murray. Her new release is a pre-historic fiction novel, Survival of the Fittest, Book 1 in the Crossroads series. 

Jackie has chosen to tell us about two of the w's needed to tell a story--Where and when her story takes place.
Welcome, Jacqui! Thank you for joining us in the 5 W's of Stories series. 

Survival of the Fittest by Jacqui Murray
Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga
Prehistoric fiction
Thanks, Janet at Focused on Story for hosting me to during the blog tour for my newest prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest.  It is Book 1 in the trilogy, Crossroads.

How Jacqui Murray Researched the Setting in the Prehistoric Novel, Survival of the Fittest 

The most challenging part of writing this book--by far--was the setting--it takes place 850,000 years ago! When I wrote my two thrillers--To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days--these happened in present day, giving me three surefire ways to explore the location:
    • Google it--plug wherever I needed into the search engine and sort through the hits.  I knew enough about the setting (say, Chesapeake Bay) that I could sort reliable from opinion.
    • Talk to fellow writers--there are many people willing to share their knowledge. A search for topical forums or blogs usually turned up someone with direct knowledge of the setting I struggled with (like where students at Columbia University liked to congregate).
    • Use Google Earth and its Streetview functions--I've written about this in the past because it is an amazing way to explore settings, see what's on the street characters walk down, to explore obstacles characters face in a park they must run through, or to understand how far apart are places they must drive to. Searching on Google Earth and then dumping yourself into Street View gives you the most authentic experience available, almost like being there.
    • Use Google Earth's Time Slider--by sliding the bar, you can reshape geography and geopolitics to be what it was long ago--up to a couple hundred years. If you're writing about the recent past, this is an amazing feature.
But none of these work for my newest prehistoric fiction because it takes place 850,000 years ago. Back then, mountains were plateaus, and savanna was jungle. Even the shorelines and fjords of continents were not like they are today. Since my characters walked from China to Spain along first the Indian Ocean and then the Mediterranean Sean, I went to great lengths to be accurate about what they faced.

Because I couldn't use any of the options above, I talked to experts in the field, researched best-guesses, and extrapolated from everything I could find. It took a long time which might explain why the book took over a decade to write.

How do you make sure that the locations your characters visit in your books are as accurately represented as possible? Please leave a comment below.
Survival of the Fittest by Jacqui Murray
Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga
Prehistoric fiction
Five tribes. One leader.
A treacherous journey across three continents
in search of a new home.

Back of the BookChased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands using an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. 

She is joined by other homeless tribes--from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. 

As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn't want her People's land. He wants to destroy her.

Available at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

About Jacqui:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. 

She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. 

Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Author Jacqui Murray

 Click the links below to connect with Jacqui online:

Thanks, Jacqui. I'm intrigued by a story that takes place 850,000 years ago. What about you? Please leave your comment below. Thank you.


Betsy said...

Google Earth's Time Slider-THAT is a cool feature. I had no idea that existed. Thanks! Sounds like a fun thing to explore. Just like your book, of course, Jacqui!

Computer Tutor said...

It is a cool feature! It goes back a couple of hundred years but for most that is sufficient.

Computer Tutor said...

Thanks, Janet, for hosting me! this will be fun!

D.L. Finn said...

I didn't know about that goggle feature! I'm going to have to play with that. I love all the research you did and can't wait to read your book. Great post.

Juneta key said...

So far I write fantasy or Sci-fi or some kind of speculative fiction so they are whatever I make up, but I do use real stuff to make it up from and try to stay within the realm it is possible.

Congrats on the new release.

robbiesinspiration said...

Lovely article. The Google Earth slider is a great tool.

Staci Troilo said...

I didn't know about the Google Earth slider. Now I want to write something historical to play with it. (Or I could just play with it and keep working on my WIPs.)

I can't imagine the efforts you went to for this undertaking, Jacqui. Wishing you all the best with it.

Computer Tutor said...

I was very taken with the Time Slider. I had a great time with it in my K-12 classes!

Computer Tutor said...

I'm not sure if it's available on the online Google Earth or just the download. But it's a free and fully-featured package if you have room on your hard drive.

Computer Tutor said...

Thanks, Juneta. That seems to be at the core of 'willing suspension of disbelief' for fantasy writers, don't you think--that it rings close enough to true to be believable? I'm bingeing Game of Thrones right now and part of why I buy into the story is it seems to be a believable representation of old England--save for the dragons and stuff.

Computer Tutor said...

It's fun, innit? I can see it as quite useful in your WWII book.

Computer Tutor said...

Me too. I'm unhappy it doesn't go back to prehistory! My story is so far back, only the rocks and the rare artifacts hold clues. I did lots of extrapolating!

J.Q. Rose said...

Thanks, Jacqui for being my guest. What a great setting for a story! And Mind-boggling to think of people living 850,000 years ago!

J.Q. Rose said...

D.L. that feature was new to me too. Amazing. Thanks for visiting.

J.Q. Rose said...

Juneta--you really flex your creative muscles when making up whole new worlds. I know you love it.

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Robbie, thanks for stopping by today.

J.Q. Rose said...

I agree with Staci--your research is what makes a story believable. The rocks must've been talking to you.
Hi Staci, thanks for leaving a comment.

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Betsy, I'm going to play with that too. Thanks for coming by.

Julie Holmes said...

There's a time slider in Google Earth? Way cool-I'm going to have to check that out. I've used Google Earth's street view, and that is very helpful! And wow, so much research! It's on my TBR for sure (now if I can manage to read more than 1 book a month...) Good luck with this book and the next one!

Computer Tutor said...

Thanks, Julie. I'm quite excited about the next in the series. It's progressing nicely. That third though--hmm...

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Julie. My DH uses the street view when he plans our trips to unknown places. I'd say Jacqui uses the slider to take readers to unknown places too! Thanks for stopping in.

G. J. Jolly said...

Most of the locations I pick are places I've been. This way I already have at least a general lay of the settings before I start writing. I also use maps and write down questions I want answered either by the map or from my own creativity.

Computer Tutor said...

Good way, Glynis. I bet that's pretty effective.

Darlene said...

For my Amanda Travels series I write about places I have visited. I still double check facts via the internet, books and magazine articles. I think since your stories happen a long time ago, you will have to use your vivid imagination as well. xo

Computer Tutor said...

So true. I extrapolate based on fact but there is so little fact from that long ago!

J.Q. Rose said...

Yes, GJ, My stories are set in places I know too.

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Darlene, you have a good plan for your story plan. Thanks for sharing.

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