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message 1: by Gemma (new)

Gemma | 12 comments What kind of research has anyone had to do in the process of writing?

I'm a nerd by necessity -- if I don't know enough about a particular subject, I hit the books and follow it through until I'm something akin to an expert (and I mean that as modestly as possible). For my last book, I had to look up smithing techniques, Renaissance-era dances, and medieval torture methods. For my latest project, I've had to find an era-appropriate street map of Paris.

How about anyone else?

message 2: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Lyons (amandamlyons) I had to research the distance between the UK and France over the English Channel and several other distances that feature strongly in the plot of my vamp novel.

I've also gathered a ton of research about southern Ohio for my apocalypse novel and the events that take place there around the Serpent Mound.

message 3: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Bushman | 144 comments I once spent two days researching the flora and fauna of the Mogollon Rim in Arizona so that I might write a three sentence descriptive paragraph in my novel, Miracle.

The more truth you can load into your fiction, the easier time a reader will have suspending their disbelief.


message 4: by Mark (new)

Mark Johansen | 24 comments My writing has been non-fiction so maybe the research requirements are more obvious.

My first book was on database design, which really required very little research because I design databases for a living, so I was mostly just writing things I know and use every day.

My second book was on apologetics, i.e. defending the Bible. The nature of that book was that I took a lot of scientific and historical tidbits I've picked up over the years and fleshed them out. This involved a ton of research. There were many points where I vaguely recalled having heard or read something that I thought would be of value to include, and now I had to track them down.

Which brings an interesting secondary question to mind: How do you do your research?

In the end I probably ultimately found about half the information I needed on the Internet and half from paper books. A small but important part of my results were from downloadable books, Gutenberg Project and the like.

message 5: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Bushman | 144 comments Depends on what you're researching, Mark. You might talk to several people knowledgeable in a particular branch of a certain field.

I don't take anything at face value on the Net unless I can back it up with a couple of credible sources.

Once I emailed a forensic expert to ask about blood spatter from a .22 semi-auto handgun. He was very nice. I learned more about blood spatter from him than anything I could've found on my own (although I did, prior to emailing him, find nearly the same information on the Net--I just wanted to be sure). Not every expert is going to be so nice, unfortunately.

If you want a taste of crime fighting, lurk on a few police forums. You don't have to register to read some of the posts, but you can get an idea.

Just depends on the kind of information you're looking for as to the style of research you should pursue. I think a varied approach is probably best...


message 6: by Grace (new)

Grace (themadmangoavenger) | 10 comments Hi guys!

I'm just beginning to delve into my story writing, so I've been doing a lot of research everywhere. My favourite areas have been the kids section of the library, believe it or not. Sometimes when I need to look up a quick gloss over on a topic, the kids books are short, to the point, and accurate.

When I get more into the process, I'm definitely keeping forums and email in mind. I'm a grad student, so I tend to fear taking up professors time. I'll get over that really quick when the time comes. ^_^

I want to make my characters accessible without being cliche. This has been difficult at best since the people surrounding me in everyday life are not good book material. So, the type of research I'm doing currently (sans school work) is mostly on personality traits, and what types of people are more likely to follow through on what actions.

message 7: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Bushman | 144 comments Oh, but the people surrounding you might, indeed, be good book material. Or one or two of their personal traits might be.

Book learning is fine, what the "experts" say can and probably should have some bearing, but the real education comes in learning to listen to everyone around you. Go sit in a coffee shop once a week and write down the best lines you overhear. You'll be amazed at what comes out of the mouths of people. Or the stories they tell.

Anywhere you go where people are, listen and watch them. Listening is an art, same as watching is an art, both necessary arts to a writer who wants his or her characters to be 3-D real.

Life is all about awareness. Good writing reflects Life, warts and all.

At least in my humble opinion.


message 8: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Shimotakahara (lshimo) In the case of my current book, a memoir which I've just finished, very little research was required because I had all the raw material I needed - my memories of the turbulent two years of my life when I defected from the Ivory Tower, had a breakdown as I searched for a new career, and searched for love in all the wrong places.... Now that this book is almost finished, however, I have a strong desire to write a historical novel focused on my grandmother's experience coming of age during the Japanese-American Internment. Her stories about being interned as a teenager in the desert camp at Minidoka has caught wind in my imagination, but I expect that a good deal of research will be necessary in order to make this novel credible. I have started by reading various Internment novels and looking at books of photographs of the camps (e.g., Dorothea Lange's). But I agree with Mari's point above that research only goes so far - the real challenge is to make the creative leap into the world of my story and research alone won't do that.

Ex Lit Prof

message 9: by Gemma (new)

Gemma | 12 comments Mark wrote: "My writing has been non-fiction so maybe the research requirements are more obvious.

My first book was on database design, which really required very little research because I design databases for..."

Very interesting secondary question, Mark. I usually get all I need on ask.com, but when I need to get something from the library, I go through the juvenile non-fiction section. Those books are short, to the point, and tell you everything you need to know.

On a side note, what happens when you can't find enough information on a given topic? I love when that happens -- I take quite a few "artistic liberties" and just wing it. You really find out what you can do in situations like that.

message 10: by Grace (new)

Grace (themadmangoavenger) | 10 comments Gemma Irene wrote: "Mark wrote: "My writing has been non-fiction so maybe the research requirements are more obvious.

My first book was on database design, which really required very little research because I design ..."

I'm glad I'm not the only one that uses the kids section! =)

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