Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The R Words!

People often think that only writers who produce historical works, whether fiction or non-fiction, have to do significant amounts of research.

Not true.

All writers have some degree of research involved in their writing and readers can tell when writers don't do enough research, especially if it concerns a topic or geographic area near and dear to them.

In a more traditional publishing process the time lag between writing a book, soliciting it to agents and/or editors, and it reaching the bookstore shelves for sale and hopefully into the arms of a grateful reader, can undermine a writers research. Most of us who have attended or who are attending any sort of higher education know that the text books we purchase often have changes and updates that come with the book or at a later time. With the internet it's certainly easier to obtain those updates and of course with e-publishing the time lag is greatly diminished.

Since the anniversary of 9/11 is this weekend, imagine that you were writing a novel set in New York and the Twin Towers were not only a geographic reference but added their own flavor of character to the story. Future writers will have to be cognisant of the pre and post 9/11 New York and not just how that event changed the landscape but the psyche of New York and the country as well.

I had been to the Twin Towers in the early 1990's and stood on the rooftop and took pictures of a view of New York that I probably will not see again. When I stood on that rooftop I felt alive and, well, on top of the world. I can only try to imagine how vulnerable people felt that high up on the day of the event we now call 9/11. (BTW - I've chosen 9/11 over 911 because that's how it's most often listed to distinguish it from the emergency code of 911 for telephones, and it represents a date after all.)

How much research a writer does depends on how important it is to the story. However, it would be foolish for anyone to think that when writing fiction, even contemporary fiction, that research is unimportant. It's always important, especially if a writer doesn't have enough personal experience to understand the mood of a character or the setting of all or part of the story.

There's an old saying, "Write what you know!" and while that is good, even great advice, writers - like everybody else - want to explore new things. This is where research and interviewing people who come from an area or walk of life your characters will journey is so important.

The other R? Well, that's REMEMBERANCE - especially this Saturday.


Franklin Beaumont said...

Hi Terri. I've found that a great by-product of being a writer is that it gives me the motivation to learn about various subjects through research that I may not otherwise have explored. Besides that, it's the little details that bring a story to life.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

You are so right. Everything requires research. You must know it to write it believably.

N. R. Williams said...

Once In critique I had a comment about the grass in the scene. The other author said, doesn't it poke her when she walks barefoot. I then realized, having lived in a more humid location that no, there are places on earth where grass is soft and lush, but in Colorado and other semi arid locals, the grass is dry and poky.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author