Friday, June 3, 2011

Research, The Joy and The Pain Part One

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


Rosalie Skinner said...

IMO research is half the fun of writing. Even with fantasy, there is a lot of research needed. Great info. Looking forward to the next post.

Viviane Brentanos said...

I agree, research can be fun. Writing about what you know is fun too. One of my biggest compliments from my Muse editor was when she said she hadn't realized there was so much to dog showing. I was proud; I had taught her something. lol. With the internet, we are so lucky. At a click of a finger we can now find out the nitty gritty details that must have take up so much time of the writers of days gone by. For example, flight times, flight duration, stop offs. All at the click of the mouse. Love life Bill Gates.

Viviane Brentanos

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rosalie and Viviane - research can be fun...but it also takes dedicated time to get it right.
Time zones and figuring travel times are fun, and a necessity.
I'm discovering YouTube to help with animated visuals of places I've never been. Got to have a picture for the textures and feel...and having it animated is even better.
Nancy this is when's part two? (grins)

Wendy said...

Hi Nancy,
You are so right. We need to get the information right. We owe it to our readers.
I get carried away with research. I think I love delving into details more than writing. I had to drag myself away from studing alchemy and medieval herbs to write what I needed in my novel, but soon discovered I needed to know about brown bears and a solar eclipse and...
If I hadn't wanted to write this particular story I wouldn't have had such fun thanks to what I learnt through this research.
Looking forward to your next posts.

Arlene said...

I love to research on the net, I never know where it'll lead. As a reader, if the author seems off base or lacks confidence, it's so easy to check up and say, wow, learned something new or geez, they didnt put much effort into this and it shows. Great post, Emily.

Christopher Hoare said...

Hi Nancy:

One thing about writing alternate history is deciding which to keep intact---to provide a realistic scenario---and which to alter. Unearthing some good details that impress the reader, can carry quite a weight of outright invention.

Chris H.

Lisa Forget said...

Thank you for your post Nancy. I love to dive into research for my stories. Like many authors here, I too, have a difficult time pulling myself away from the interesting things I've "unearthed"!
Looking forward to your 11am post.

jabberingjo said...

Dear Nancy, thank you for your post oon research. I hate doing research. I agree with you, though it is necessary. I have several novels going at once. One is set in the eighteen hundreds and chronoicles (sort of) my great grandfathers trip from Missouri to South Dakota in one of the last waagon trains.I thought I knew everything, having listened to my grandmother's sstories, but when it came to trails and times I h;ad to dig up information. I couldn't have my character riding a train that had not yet been installed.

Unknown said...

I love all those tidbits that you learn while researching, sometimes I can get lost in what I am trying to learn about.

Nancy Bell said...

Wow, thanks to all of you for coming and commenting. Hugs.

Rosalie, you're so right, there is always more to learn. It seems the more I learn the more there is to discover.

Viviane, with me it is horse's not dog showing LOL My poor editor asked a couple of times, "Can a horse do that?" As an editor, I find I learn something from each of my authors. It's a great symbiiotic relationship.

Kay Dee, YouTube is great isn't it? I found a bunch of video of the 'Obby 'Oss Festival in Cornwall which helped in writing Laurel's Miracle and I love Google Earth.

Wendy, I know what you mean, I get lost in the search sometimes. This link leads to another and so on...I have to drag myself away to actually write something. LOL

Nancy Bell said...

Me again!
Arlene, good points, readers really pick up on it if you fake it. The worst thing is if an expert in the field reads something you have cobbled together without any actual research. Hurts your rep a lot.

Chris, I think it's really neat how you took real technology and incorporated it into an alternate reality in Rast.

Lisa, So true! I think research is addicting. LOL

Joan, the wealth of information out there is amazing. I love to actually visit places where my novel is set if I can. I can experience the heat of the sun, the blast of the wind, the cloying dust etc and bring my own interpretation to the experience. Physical travel to sites for research can be time consuming but it also lends a richness and depth to your words.

CPG, thanks for dropping by. :~) It is fun when all the little tid bits come together in a manuscript.

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Nancy, just popped in for a bit to check this out and you are so right about needing the right research for your book. Even in my upcoming novel I had to do a lot of research about a disease I knew nothing about personally. Sometimes personal accounts can help very much if you're sure they are true. Getting people to comment anonymously helps a lot. I'll be back for the next part. This is great, thank you.

Cellophane Queen said...

Research leads me to much that end up in my books. I like to use those bits where I'm thinking: Hm. I didn't know that! Cool! I'll use it!

Extra !s since I'm trying to weed them out of my actual books.

Nancy Bell said...

Hi Barbara and Marva! Glad you stopped by.

Barbara, personal accounts are great sources, people remember the little every day things which often don't get recorded in the history books. Give a rich, authentic flavor to your words.

Marva, LOL re: the ! I agree, a lot of what I find in research ends up in my books. And I love the "aha" moments when everything just clicks into place.


Anonymous said...

Wow, looking forward to part II.