Why Should I Research?
Ah, the million dollar question. Why should an author do research? Shouldn’t we just write about what we know? The easy answer is: Yes, of course we should write what we know. However, authors are human, and therefore not infallible, or fonts of endless knowledge. Research is essential to working within many genres, for example Historical Romance, Historical – war scenarios, either actual events or stories based during actual events. The author must be sure the writing remains true to the era and that actual documented events are not altered. The exception to this, of course, is where an author writes an alternate reality story.
When choosing the setting of a story the author needs to keep certain things in mind, weather patterns at different seasons, logistical data- how long would it take to get from point A to point B travelling by the author’s chosen mode of transport. Just looking at a map and choosing the shortest distance will not take into account certain local geographical features which may be revealed by investigative research. What plants, flowers, trees etc. are indigenous to the region? Are there any unique landmarks or customs which would give the work a richer, more intimate feel to the reader?
Does the plot involve a certain industry, career or sport? If so, the author must know the rules and regulations governing the same. Is there an ecological disaster in the plot, the laws and regulations used in the narrative/dialogue must be accurate and true to the location and industry. Laws differ from country to country, province to province, and state to state; know your stuff, don’t guess. Know the rules of the sport you are using as a backdrop for your action, for example, hockey is played in three periods not four quarters. Seriously, I once read a light romance which spoke of four quarters and a half time show, the male lead was a semi-pro hockey player, the author clearly did not do the required research.
Inadequate research results in a sloppy, inaccurate manuscript and will detract from the reader’s enjoyment. I find nothing more irritating, than reading a story full of inaccuracies which are not placed to further the plot or for any other reason than the author did not do sufficient research on the subject they chose to include in their writing.
Don’t let it happen to you! Stay tuned for the next instalment, posting at 11:00 am EST