Hey, SE Readers. Joan with you today.
I have a confession to make. When I first began writing fiction, I hated to do research. I didn’t want to bother with such mundane tasks. Once I even wrote a blog post titled “Research, A Necessary Evil.”
I’m not sure why I had such an aversion. I’ve always loved history and trivia. In general, I’m a curious person and there’s no telling what might pique my interest.
But with writing, I was like “Thanks, but no thanks.” Maybe I wanted to adhere to the adage, “Write what you know.” Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to discover I knew very little.
The setting of my first novel was in a fictional Texas town during the horrible drought of 2011. I lived through that time. I experienced the better part of two months where the daytime temperatures reached triple digits. I saw streams dry up that had never done so in my lifetime and the water levels drop to all-time lows.
I lived in fear of wildfires spreading into my neighborhood and knew of friends who had to evacuate their homes. I’d lived through it, so I knew all there was to know, right?
Wrong! I didn’t begin the book until almost three years later, so I couldn’t rely solely on my memory. I was pretty sure part of the space shuttle was found in a lake because of the low water levels, but which one? There was also an entire town that was in danger of burning, but I couldn’t recall the name.
Because I wanted to include those real-life events in my book, I had to get it right. There are lots of savvy readers out there who are quick to point out factual errors. I turned to the Internet for information and ended up getting two books out of the deal. Also, I discovered research is fun (and addictive).
Probably one of the most fun projects I wrote was a time-travel short story. Not only did I have to research the modern-day United States Navy, I needed facts about America during World War II. I had questions like “What was the price of a hamburger in 1943?” and “What naval bases were in operation at that time?”
These days, information is at our fingertips via the Internet. We no longer have to go to a library and search through dozens of books. And who knows? While digging for information for one story, you might find something that will generate another idea.
One word of caution—always make sure you use reliable sources. Just because something is posted on the Internet doesn’t make it true.
Do you love research or hate it? What is one of the most interesting things you’ve encountered? Please share in the comments.