Monday, October 25, 2010

Writers and Research:

Oh yes folks, fantasy authors do research. To what degree depends on the author and the story they’re creating. I’m not going to go into the where, when or even the why scenario. I am sure there are others more qualified than I am to do so. I’m going to tackle how much to include in your manuscript. A tough question.

Have you ever considered how much research J. K. Rowling must have done for her Harry Potter series? Do you think she just had Latin phrases growing out of her ears? And all those fantastical creatures. Where did she find them? Research. Even when you invent something you have to do some research or, you base it on something you were once taught.

I my case, I have never played the flute, yet my heroine in my high fantasy is a gifted flutist. I have also never been or do I know any druids, yet one of my characters in my Phoenix novella is a druid. I had to learn about the flute and about druids. I also had to learn about maps and the process of mapping, about battles, especially the type fought in medieval times, I had to learn about clothing and that only mentions a few of the things.

So, how much do I include. Oh, this is the tough part. After spending hours, days and some authors even spend months doing my research, it boils down to one or two lines, or accurately describing clothes, or what personality would it take for a druid to break the rules. You get the point, and even then, you have to tweak what you write and edit it until you wonder why you did the research to begin with. The answer of course, is to layer your story with detail. Just not too much.

Did you research something foreign to you to create your story?

20 comments:

Nicole MacDonald said...

Yep! I did lots of crazy research, from watching brazilian jujitsu videos (after researching a martial art that women could use against men easily and successfully) Along with eagle's anatomy and medieval weapons and lots more!! It's pretty amazing all the things I've learned while writing a book ;p

www.damselinadirtydress.com

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Funny you should mention flutists. My first revision smack in the face regarding research involved flutists. I'd made very wrongful use of the term fluted, and my editor called me on it. I'm glad to have learned the lesson of research, though, because it means I'll be less apt to make such mistakes again.

Clarissa Draper said...

I do crazy amounts of research but I love doing it. Some times I learn so much my brain is going to explode. I think a flute playing character is fun. I would love to learn how to play the flute for a character.

CD

Joanne said...

I love researching. Even a sentence or two culled from it gives a novel such authenticity. And I also find it spins off even more ideas, character traits, plot directions, having that added knowledge.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I wish I had more time for research. I try to go right to the source as fast as possible for the info I need--verify it a couple of places--then go with it. I wait to research until the end of the first draft (I mark the areas in my WIP that I'll need to research later.)

Marian Allen said...

For EEL'S REVERENCE, I researched topography of coastal areas, various reproductive methods (by reading, not through field research, ahem), natural dyes and precious/semi-precious gemstones, among other things. All of this informed my writing of the book, but very little of it was explained in the text.

Marian Allen

N. R. Williams said...

Wow, thank you all, Nicole, Jeffrey, Clarissa, Joanne, Elizabeth and Marian to stopping by and leaving a comment. It looks like you've all had your fair share of research involved to create your stories.
Nancy

KK Brees said...

I read a biography of Himmler. Depressing but necessary!

N. R. Williams said...

I'd be depressed by Himmler too, KK.

Thank you for leaving a comment.
Nancy

mtlogan said...

I'm always finding that after I do research and think I have everything I need, when it comes to the actual writing, I have to do more to get the exact detail right. But since I love research, I don't really mind.

Quinn said...

I do some research, but not too much. I want to be able to create my own vision too.

Kay Theodoratus said...

Research is unending. My characters are always raising questions I have no answers to.

On the other hand, sorting through the print-outs resulting from the research can reveal bare wood on the desks.

N. R. Williams said...

I here you there MT.

I don't like disrupting my vision either Quinn, so I understand exactly what you mean.

Kay, our characters do have a way of making us stop and think through their difficulties and researching what will answer those questions they raise.

Thank you all for your comments.
Nancy

Lynda Young said...

The latest reserach I had to do was on molluscs and where they grow. I needed a variety that grew in cold regions. lol.

N. R. Williams said...

I don't even know what those are Lynda. Impressive.
Nancy

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Nancy...your post is very apt for me. Though I am writing fantasy fiction, I did a lot of research for my current WIP. And after all that, I just incorporated few sentences of my extensive research into my story, but it did help me understand the topic better.

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment on my blog. Hope you are alright now. Wishing you a speedy recovery and good health.

Rachna

N. R. Williams said...

Rachna, as a fantasy author myself, a little research goes a long way. Thank you for your comment and well wishes. You are most welcome of my comment on your blog.
Nancy

kobico said...

As a consumer (as opposed to a creator), I was just in a situation where a small amount of knowledge went a long way. I saw a production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, and at the intermission my friend mentioned what an unsympathetic character she was. But I was thinking that I felt empathy for her. Okay, she was cruel and not very likable, but she was also trapped by the expectations heaped on women of her social status. I can imagine why it may have been considered controversial when it was released.

N. R. Williams said...

A thoughtful comment Kobico. I haven't seen that production but I might do so now.
Nancy

Erin Cole said...

Hi Nancy,

What a great point! Every good author does research, even for something as simple as clothing, because a good sentence or two about that type of clothing can really authenticate your descriptions, setting, action, etc. The reader probably doesn't even know it, even though you spent all morning on it! : )
I do a lot of geology research in my novels—my protagonist is a geologist—and though it is time consuming, the finish product is worth every word.
Thanks,
Erin