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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Late at night--and fiction research

Tonight, I am lying in bed just after working all day from 11 am to 10 pm, exercising, checking writing blogs, checking work certifications, reading depressing e-mails, and wondering what the bloodseas happened to my day.

And now...research. I'm not 100% good at it. I'm glad I went to New York, so I have a picture in my head of the streets where my protagonist finally tracks down that escaped murderer. I should have taken down street names, but I could argue (in my laziness) that they distract from the action of the story. I feel the same way about science research. For myself, I think the author should know the science behind the science fiction well enough that they COULD write an appendix about it, but I should not spend a hundred years telling us how the fiction works. "Geez Jen, why do I need to know how to build a neodymium mace?" Right.

That said--I should do my homework. Part of J.R.R. Tolkein's talent lies in the appendices: he had so much world-building he did not have to work into the story, but the story seems richer, realer, and more seamless because he KNEW more about the characters and the worlds. No holes. It's like when you go in to defend your thesis: you should know more than you put into the paper.

I've heard it's good to go sit in a location and muse for a while, for research, or to conduct interviews of people in certain situations. Personally, I research by pretending I'm as ignorant or knowledgable as the character. I stayed up late last night googling how to treat a bullet wound because one of my teenagers finds himself with a superhero unwilling to go the hospital after a bullet to the shoulder-blade. I did what he did. I looked up the problem, pretending I had nothing with which to fix it. I also talk to my characters during the day, so my dialogue often works when my stupid descriptions don't. I should probably sit in places and note details to practice descriptions.

How do you research?


  1. I am laughing because the other night I was googling how to treat an open break to the tibia. I do tend to over-research some things (and probably under-research others...)

  2. Ok, so all the world is researching now! This cracks me up because of how much people have been talking about researching their stories across the blogosphere. I've been stressing about research on mine, too. :)

    I have a great book that my late mother-in-law gave me (having no idea what an amazing research tool it would be for my fiction) called "When There Is No Doctor." It covers everything from setting breaks to common ailments to dealing with a diabetic crash. Priceless stuff, and it's instructions for REGULAR (non-doctorly) people with no access to a hospital or any other medical facility.

    Someday I'll have time to run around visiting specific places and interviewing people for my stories. Until then, it's books and the internet to the rescue. :}

    1. Oh man, that sounds like a great book! I will ask for that for Christmas.