Sunday, January 4, 2009

Research For Fiction Writing — Part I

Novels require research. When I plot a novel, I also being to do research on the areas that I will need more expertise than I already have. This can be on setting, events in that setting, careers, hobbies of characters, medical information, and a multitude of areas. As you begin your novel, review your needs and begin your research early. Often things you learn can add a different spin or an exciting subplot to your work. Once the novel is underway, you will continue to find areas that need research. Here are some tips to help in your research.

Any research you do must be accurate, purposeful, authentic and relevant. Readers know when you make a mistake and you’ll hear about it. When readers find one error in your research, they tend to doubt all of your facts, statistics and details.

Accuracy: Being accurate is a necessity. Don’t find an Internet statement and accept it as
correct. Look for other sources to validate the information. When using books, check the copyright date. Books are already a year or more old when they’re published and things change quickly.

Purposeful: Make sure that the information is meaningful to your story. Sometimes
authors are intrigued by all the details they find on a subject and want to “squeeze” it into their story. Only use information required to make your story believable. Readers don’t want to know how to be a brain surgeon. They only need enough details to make the career realistic. Learn some terminology and a few details to add reality.

Authentic: When you use facts, statistics and details make sure they come from a reliable
source. They should be documented by people of authority who will provide solid information. If you’re using medical information, make sure it comes form a reliable website and check it against other reliable sites. Wikpedia provides good information, but remember it’s written by people not be authorities.

Relevance: Any details you provide from research should essential to understand the
storyline and move the plot forward. Even though your hero might be an excellent scuba diver, do no provide detailed information on scuba diving unless it is important to the plot. How long his oxygen tank will last is vital if you have a scene where he’s trapped somewhere underwater and locating him and bringing him to the surface is a life and death situation. If he’s just diving for treasure or to find a body or whatever, the reader doesn’t need that information. The diver will have enough since to come to the surface.

Research is needed for fiction—both contemporary and historical. The research you do is for your information to understand the career, the health issue, the location and not necessarily for your reader to know. Only include relevant, need-to-know information in your novel. When you begin your research, save time by knowing what information you need and research that only. If you contact people, respect their time. Be prepared with what you need to know and have your questions written down. Take good notes so you don’t have to contact them again for the same information.

5 comments:

Ralph Void said...

As much as possible, look for 5 or more resources and try to classify true information from not so true.

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Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Absolutely, Ralph. Research and resources need to be tested before trusting the information.

Wishing you blessings in your writing.
Gail

Patti Hill said...

You blogged just in time. I'm just starting research on first pre-Patti novel, WWII homefront. It's quite daunting. Thanks for the info.

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Hi Patti - I'll be blogging on research for a coupel more weeks. Hope you find some ideas that you find helpful.

Gail

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