It’s Okay to Make Stuff Up

I began working on one of my novels over the weekend.  It opens in Chile, and one of the roadblocks I immediately ran into was the fact that I know almost nothing about Chile.  I know where it’s located and a couple of cities, but that’s it.  While I’ve got Google Maps showing me the lay of the land, what else I’ve incorporated has been on-the-fly research, and the answers are thin and few.

For instance, one of the characters is in the Chilean Air Force.  I can find out what sort of aircraft they have.  I can find out roughly where their airbases are, but no maps of these installations, not even a general one; in fact, I think some might really operate out of civilian airports.  I don’t know how different units integrate with each other.  I don’t know how Air Force officers in Chile conduct their daily affairs.

This is the part where, against my better judgement, I have to make stuff up.  I hate doing that because it makes me feel like I’m going into a story blindly, but I take some comfort in knowing that’s not unusual.  James Patterson does this a lot.  Whenever he hits a cloudy point of the story, he’ll write “To be determined”.  Even Max Brooks, who spends years researching his novels, will get to a part where the details aren’t accurate and he’ll make it up.

I think I’m motivating myself here more than you, my freaky darlings.  When drafting, the most important thing is to get to “The End.”  Make it up and sort out the details later.

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