On Writing


Research...do I have to?

How much fact-checking you'll need to do depends on the setting of your story, your characters' occupations, and how important facts are to your story and the prospective market. You might not need to do any research for a story set today, entirely in your home town (or a fictional version of your town) that has a main character who holds the same day job you have. Now, if one of your characters holds a job you've never had or comes from a country you've never visited, you've got some research to do. Set the story long ago--in your country or another land--and you've really raised the research bar. Even if you create a unique fantasy or future world for your story, the setting and characters will have more truth to them if you know your facts: science, history, cultural traditions, linguistics, psychology and sociology are areas you may need to draw upon as a foundation for your imaginary world.

I usually end up doing more research than needed. It's never wasted time because the extensive notes I take get filed away to use for future work. Once I've researched my fill, I have to remind myself of the type of story I'm writing and then select the right amount of research to include. Striking the right balance for your story is important for the intended market and its readers. A story that gets bogged down by the writer showing off the research they've done is just as bad as one that makes no sense because no facts were checked at all.

For Goldie and the Three Bares I researched 5th century Scotland stone carvings and archeology because Goldie, my love-deprived protagonist, is an archeologist who specializes in Pictish artifacts and gets sent back in time to the 5th century. I didn't become an expert on either topic, but I spent enough time to gather facts for a believable picture of Goldie, her work and her encounter with the two men she meets in the past. If I'd planned a longer and more serious story I would have done more research, however my intention was to write a short, playful, erotic fantasy; the facts were the icing on the cake not the cake itself.

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