The Write Place
How to Research
I’ve read a lot of books in the past where the author gets so bogged down in trying to present all the research they’ve done within the bounds of the story and essentially, they end of boring the reader. Not everything you’ve researched needs to end up in your story. This is where the writer is telling the reader how much work they’ve put into researching this topic. Instead, you need to show the reader how clever you are by having the research in question filtered throughout your story so seamlessly, they don’t even realise it’s there.
If you’re not sure how best to research a topic, visit your local library/e-library, find the books you’ll need and start taking notes. Alternatively, “Google” it – although it’s wise not to believe everything you find on the internet. Check necessary facts and figures with reference books or someone who has personal experience or knowledge in the area you’re looking into.
I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to learning how to successfully filter your research into your story. It’s as though I’m desperate for the reader to know I’ve done my homework, that they can trust the information I’m imparting because I’ve spent hours/days/weeks researching.
Years ago, in my 3rd book, I had a scene where the doctors were explaining to the parents of a young patient how the child’s fractured leg would heal. Words like osteoclasts and osteoblasts were batted around and explained in detail. I received a comment back from my editor telling me that whilst she appreciated my attention to detail, the scene was superfluous because it didn’t further the storyline. Instead, the patient’s parents only needed to know their daughter’s fractured leg would heal without complications. That’s it!
Make sure you’re aware of just how much for your research you’re putting into your story. I promise that you will need to research at least 10 times the amount of information which will eventually make it into your story – and that’s OK. Your characters only need a smidgen of what research you’ve done because this is all the reader needs to know.
In another book, I had my protagonists kiss beneath the mistletoe which was both emotional and romantic. Perfect scene in my opinion. I mentioned this to a friend who also happened to be a florist and she told me that mistletoe is considered a noxious weed in Australia. So off I went, to do my research. I researched thoroughly, for at least 2 days straight, to get ALL the facts correct and ended up having my protagonists’ first ever kiss to be beneath plastic mistletoe. Two lines were spoken about why it was plastic and then the scene moved on. This was all the story needed on this subject – just two short lines. If I’d gone on to reveal all I’d learned about mistletoe, I would have been at risk of having the story lag and having my reader put the book down. (a big ‘no-no’)
So don’t worry about letting your reader know how smart you because you’ve put all of your researched information into your story. Instead, let your characters appear to be smart because they already know everything and that way you can filter the information easily throughout the story, as and when it’s needed.
Oh and if you ever want to know anything about mistletoe just email me. I know it ALL!
Remember – you can fix a bad page, you can’t fix a blank page.
See you next time for more inspiration and instruction from The Write Place.
© Copyright, Anne Lucy Clark, The Write Place, March, 2017.
09/08/2017 / Kit Densley