Doing Research

Specialised knowledge is important for writing. 

When writing about a fight and a character getting injured, there is only so much you can get away with making up. Asking a doctor or nurse might prove helpful with this.

Also, when writing about certain cultures, it is always advisable to do research or get a sensitivity reader or two from those cultures to go through your work. When writing royalty, it is helpful to research how they speak and act. It is true that we are writing fantasy and can make stuff up, but if you are basing your writing on a culture, it is always good to learn more about it.

Giving false information or a sloppy account of a thing or known event is pretty much an insult to your readers. There is a large component of make-belief in writing fiction, but the need for accuracy is non-negotiable. Readers know more than writers give them credit.

You may have read a book that got you asking if the writer actually knew what they were talking about. You ask this question because the writer breached the unwritten promise of a believable story with accurate information.

Research is the way to sharpen the tools needed to craft believable stories. It gives the facts that help authors model characters and build believable plots.

The best creative writings are made from a healthy blend of facts and fiction. Research supplies the facts. Creative writing is placing a fun perspective on information. 

This does not necessarily mean you need to get ALL the facts, just make sure to get right the ones relevant to your story.

Here are three ways to gather specialised information (these are tools/methods I use myself): 

1. Fact-check

This is the first sort of info gathering I use, even before I start to write the story or scene. I once did 3 days of research on viking boates just to write a scene that had less to do with the boats and more to do with the characters. Do I consider this a waste of time? No. The information came in handy much later in the story (and in a couple of others I’ve written since then). 

Research is easy for me because I learnt to research a lot at University. But if you don’t have any clue how to conduct research, fear not. The simple method to doing this is asking the right questions. 

How long does a stab wound take to heal?

Can someone survive a fall from a roof? 

What sort of fabrics were considered as luxuries in … era? 

Using the w/h questions really helps dredge up the information you need. And also be sure to check multiple sources. Reading one answer on Quora does not pass for adequate research. 

If you don’t want to go into an in-depth study on the topic, just check the facts and make sure that they, at least are accurate. 

2. Read widely 

Books are an amazing source of information. Traditionally published books (especially those published by the bigger publishing houses) have editors who check the accuracy of information included in the manuscripts they publish. Some smaller presses and self-published authors have editors who may do this also, but I know for a fact that the big presses have their works checked. 

Reading trad published books on the subject will not only provide a well of info, but will also give an idea of the facts that are necessary and the ones that are not. 

Aside from stories, actual books on the topic are invaluable. Ive got books on Star Maps, herbal medicines, crystals, astrology, psychology, strategies for war, etc. These all help to get my facts right and make my stories more believable. 

3. Sensitivity readers

Sensitivity readers are specialists (or regular people) in the field. For instance, if you have an autistic character in your book, getting an autistic reader or someone who knows/is close to/deals with autistic people to go over your work will help you measure the accuracy of your portrayal of that character. 

I have a couple of doctors I run my fight scenes by, and they point out any inaccuracies on the portrayal of the injuries or injured. 

When editing Tainted, I ran a couple of scenes by a fireman who told me they were completely inaccurate, though the story was great. I tried to fix them, but gave up after a while and decided to cut them and now they only get referred to in the prologue and a few other places. 

If you’re interested, I can compile a list of sensitivity readers for different topics/areas so you can contact them. Just let me know. 

Till next time, keep writing. 

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