Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A to Z - "R" is for Research

I was going to talk about Red Room, a website for authors to meet and share their works however it seems to be down for new site building.

Instead, I will talk about Research. Writer's Digest has a great article on Research for your novel.  This quick summary drew me in:
There are plenty of ways to research your novel including the following:
•    Using the internet (obviously the quickest and most painless way)
•    Visiting the library (ah, check you out…the old school approach)
•    Traveling to locations where your story will take place (a bold move there Hemingway, you sure you’ve got the moxy?)
•    Interviewing people who know about the things you are writing about (now you’re just getting crazy)
 Research makes your writing REAL. Even if you are working in a fictional world, of you don't want to explain the new physics laws or how every element works in your story, you need to use some familiar constants from the real world to give your readers a base to stand on and grasp the world.

When I first read  Incarceron and Sapphique, I was kinda lost. It took a while to get into the world and create a mind picture. Not that this is a bad thing, but to rely solely on the human aspects of emotion to connect your reader and not on the settings or events is quite a shock to a reader. I understand that sometimes it must be done. Clearly it worked for Catherine Fisher. But I doubt she did no research. There were period pieces in there, some technologies in there. All good writers do research.

My husband was working on a piece that he wanted to begin in the 1990s. The characters couldn't just borrow a DVD or text each other if they didn't have the correct phones or the right technological devices to do this. Society's opinions of the characters, how they lived, what they wore, whether it was cool to hang out in certain places all have changed from the 1990s to now. He had to do research and couldn't rely solely on his memory.

I am working on a piece that takes place in a forest. I need to know what plants are available for mice to eat in the spring, what threats exist in the settings, and how quickly a baby mouse matures, grows fur, and opens its eyes. My research allows me to make the story more real. I hope some child one day learns something from my books.

It seems there are 2 kinds of research, Background Research, and Spot Research. (Resource here.)
Background is investigating a subject, era, industry, or whatever makes your novel believable. Spot Research is the stuff you need to look up to make it accurate, little facts, names of real things or places, or the details that the character knows. It's trivia.

Also, it is recommended to do your research in the outline phase of your writing. Imagine having all your notes right there in the plot points you are going to elaborate on as you finally draft your complete piece! How much easier than flying by the seat of your pants.... but maybe not as much fun.


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