Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Research Isn't Needed

A lot of research goes into a novel. Especially a genre novel, where the world-building's important. There's the big issues, like the where and when of the setting, the backstory, the characters' jobs, but there's a lot of little things too. For my WIP, I've looked up everything from ion drives, hydroponics, and electrocution, to feng shui, Chinese universities, and the scenery along the I5. There's more research to be done, too, mainly in the realms of Mandarin profanity, Tesla coils, and police procedure. Sometimes it seems like the research will never end, so when my revisions reached the first camping scene yesterday and I didn't have to check on how to pitch a tent, I was shocked. Something I knew already? Amazing!

Now that I think about it, there's a lot I don't have to look up. I read enough science articles online to invent the technology I'm using without more than a Google search or two. I know what lightning looks like. I know Pacific Northwest beaches and forests. I know the local streets well enough to drive them, and well enough to know which areas my hero's most likely to find bad things to happen to him in. I know enough police procedure to fudge things. I can cook basic meals. It turned out I barely needed to research ion drives at all.

I'm betting every writer has portions of their books they haven't had to research, either because they've read the info for something unrelated, because it's part of their daily life, or because they've deliberately included something they know about in the setting or story. And I think every writer should try to remember the things they do know, when the research gets them down. We know a lot more than we think we do, and we need all the encouragement we can get!


David S. Leyman said...

Physics, Gas Turbine Engines, People - a breeze. After 27 years in the military I suddenly found I had to look up Royal Naval ranks and insignia!

You are absolutely right. Odd things we need to research. It is always best if you don't have to because then the witing goes more smoothly, more continuously.

Reece said...

Apparently I haven't read enough, because I still feel like I have to research everything, at least if I want my book to be halfway realistic/decent. Even so, I love the research too, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.

Elena said...

I'm kind of agreeing with Reece. Of course, I really enjoy the research too (except when I can't find what I'm looking for simply, eg. the layout for medieval houses).