Friday, January 3, 2014
Writing Friday: Research
As an author, research is part of my everyday life. My books need to be historically accurate so I don't make my readers upset with me.
Authors who don't write historically face this same task. If a story is set in a particular city, the streets names should be accurate, along with the atmosphere of the city. This goes for many other aspects of modern writing.
As a historical author, research might be even more important to me than it is to authors who write in other genres like fantasy, where the author completely creates his or her own world. To get myself understanding the feel of the period I’m writing in, I will usually select a few fiction works that take place during roughly the same time and read through them. Next, I will think through the basic plotline I have set out for my book. Are there any parts where the setting will directly affect my events? Recently, I was researching a city for the sequel to Swept to Sea, and learned that just a few years prior to the year my novel took place, there was a terrible earthquake that destroyed nearly everything in sight. If I hadn’t caught this, my story would have been historically inaccurate! Instead of letting this historical fact discourage me, I worked it into my story. I made it affect my characters’ lives and even gave one of my characters a scar from the encounter. This helped round out my characters and give them more depth.
After these initial researching steps, I usually go ahead and write my novel without worrying about research. If I run into something I want to learn more about, I will jot down a note and look it up later. When I go through the editing process, I make sure that everything seems historically accurate, so my characters don’t use a term or an object that was around after they were.
The research process can sometimes seem very long and tedious, but I find that if I break it up into smaller sections, I can get where I want to be.
How do you research? Do you like the research process, or not?