You might be saying, “I write fiction so I don’t need to do research. The story is made up.”
Your story may not be true, but, unless you are writing about an experience that actually happened to you, research is involved. Here is a partial list of why fiction writers have to do research while writing their novels.
1. Where is your story taking place? If it’s a fictional town you can include anything you want. In my novel the protagonist is going to another country where I’ve never been. Since she is traveling to a real place I must find out what that place is like: weather, culture, geography, government, etc. If your main character is going to a real place people who read your book and have been there will know if you are making things up.
2. Maybe there are characters in your book who have occupations or hobbies you are not familiar with. You can be sure there will be someone reading your book who has that occupation or hobby and will know if you are accurate in your details. I love watching the TV show Castle. There an author is shadowing a police detective because the main character in his next book is a police detective. He wants his scenes to ring true.
3. Time/Era – Are you writing an historical novel? If so, you better have your facts straight as to what life was like during that time period. What did the people wear, what music was popular, what was the economy like, what kind of homes did they live in or jobs did they have?
4. Maybe a character is wearing designer clothes. Do some research on popular designers and describe the clothes correctly to fit a particular designer. If she is wearing clothes by Michael Kors you better not be describing clothes by another designer.
5. Races or cultures – If you are writing about people of a different race know how they talk, what foods they like to eat, their mannerisms. If you are writing about street gangs they are probably not going to say “please” and “thank you”. Even if your story takes place in the U.S. someone from the Mid-West will do things and say things differently than someone from the South or East.
6. What is your character’s social standing? A homeless person will be very different from high society.
7. Religious customs – If you mention a particular religion you need to know some of the doctrine and customs of that religion.
8. Is your protagonist going to another country? Then you need to make sure they have a passport. You also need to find out if a visitors’ visa is needed to get into that country.
WHERE TO GET YOUR INFORMATION
1. The library or book store
2. Interview people
3. Travel agents
4. Goggle alerts – If you are not familiar with this just goggle Goggle Alerts. When you get into the web site you can set it up for any topic you want. Goggle then will send you (via e-mail) any articles that come up on that topic. I’m doing that for my novel and I’m getting all sorts of current information on my topic. It’s free.
6. The internet – one word of caution, if you are getting information from the internet make sure it is a reliable source, not Wikipedia.
These lists do not include everything out there regarding what research is needed to write your novel or short story. You will need to look at your own project and determine what research is needed. I just wanted to get you started.
Until I started writing my novel I never realized how much research is needed to write fiction. Details and descriptions must be true. I have also found out that doing the research can be as much fun as writing the book.
Those of you who have written novels will you share what research you’ve had to do to make your books real?