Never underestimate the importance of research in fiction. Many writers spend months, or even years, studying a subject so they can fully understand it before they go on to write about it. Other writers research as they go.
Properly researching different subjects will drastically improve your writing.
If you think too much about what you're trying to write, you will never actually write. Research serves as inspiration and as education.
The type and amount of research you do depend on your genre. Fantasy benefits from some research into how magic systems operate, while a romance novel set during the Second World War might benefit from the writer reading love letters from that time.
This blog highlights the importance of research for fiction writers, as well as providing some fiction writing research tips on building authentic narratives with research!
Why Is Research Important?
Research is a means of solving a problem. That could be a problem with characterization, the world you're building, or it could be plain old writer's block. Whatever the problem, research can solve it.
Taking some time out of a packed writing schedule can be hugely beneficial to writers because it can break them out of a rut with their work. Simply opening up your preferred search engine and typing a question can get the creative juices flowing once more.
As you go about researching for your book, it's a good idea to keep a notepad handy or to use voice memos or another recording method. This will help you to build a paper trail and keep your research in one place so you can keep referring back to it.
Another reason to keep up to date with your research is to simply advance your knowledge. Your characters and world are only as knowledgeable as you are, so it's important to keep up with them.
How to Research for Fiction
Research can take a variety of forms. You don't have to sit in a library for hours, poring over large textbooks just to find one scrap of useful information that might never make it into the final product.
Below are just a few unorthodox, but practical, ways you can research for your novel.
A podcast is a program consisting of multiple episodes that can be made available to download online. You can find podcasts on a variety of streaming services. Podcasts vary from topic to topic, from history to true crime to writing techniques to scientific breakthroughs.
Listening to a podcast can be a great form of research because it offers a conversational approach to some topics that might be difficult to comprehend. As such, they are a gateway to further research for the aspiring author.
If you are unable to attend a lecture at your local university or you don't know where to begin, you might start with pre-recorded lectures. These can be in the form of an audio lecture or an uploaded version of a real-life lecture.
In addition to being a useful start to research, these lectures can also be quite insightful, as the person giving them is an expert in their field. You can find lectures for free on video streaming platforms such as YouTube.
A research trip could be anything. You might want to use research as an excuse to finally tour a castle in Spain so you can experience the layout and integrate that into your story.
Or, you might want to write a story about a ballet dancer; it would be a good idea to attend a few ballet performances to deconstruct them and to talk to real ballet dancers. You could also take a simple trip to a museum.
Research trips don't have to be big, luxurious vacations; they can be small and practical.
If you want to learn more about a topic, you can always take a class on it. Curious about Roman history or the role of ceramics in the modern world? Your local community college probably has a class you could take.
You can probably find a class to quench your thirst for knowledge. Writing about a swimmer who wants to swim the English Channel? Take some swimming lessons and get to grips with the basics.
Attending a class or a course on a topic is helpful because you are in an environment that fosters discussion. You also have access to a wealth of information.
Experience is the most valuable teacher and a powerful contributor to your voice as a writer. Writing from your own experience lends an authenticity to your work, which can make your story more immersive and engrossing.
These experiences can be things you have already done or things that you plan to do. Research can be a valuable opportunity to take on new experiences, which will improve the quality of your story.
Hire an Expert
If the thought of research is daunting, you can always hire an expert ghostwriter to relieve the burden of research and bring your book to life.
The Role of Research in Compelling Fiction Writing
Adequate research is key to writing. While there are some places where you can take some artistic license and create something from your own interpretation, it's important that you understand why research is so important.
Research solves many fundamental problems, and one of those is cultural appropriation. Recently, cultural appropriation has been at the center of the creative world. Taking inspiration from cultures other than your own is encouraged; however, it can become problematic.
The key to avoiding this is through understanding why certain elements are so important. For example, you might want to have your characters undergo a tea ceremony, inspired by a Japanese tea ceremony you read about in another book.
Appropriation would be to include the tea ceremony because it "would be cool." Inclusion and appreciation would be understanding why those ceremonies are important in the first place. You can weave this knowledge into your work and allow it to add depth to the world.
Ask any writer why they write, and it will be for one of many reasons:
- to make an income from writing
- to get their thoughts out of their head
- to work through complex emotions
Writing can be helpful for a lot of things. One of the things it's most useful for is understanding your own genre.
Regardless of genre, you will come across hurdles.
Writing a historical romance set in the 16th century? You need to understand the available technology.
Are you writing a science fiction novel set in a Dyson sphere? You need to understand what a Dyson sphere is and how it would function.
While you don't need to become an expert in these topics, you certainly need to understand their role in the world you're building, and the story you're telling.
When you research something enough to have a thorough understanding of it, it will increase your confidence in your ability to write. Readers know when a writer is confident in their writing and they know when a writer has put in the effort to build authentic narratives with research for their work.
When NK Jemisin was preparing to write the Broken Earth trilogy, she did several things:
- spoke to geologists
- visited and toured volcanoes
- studied rock formation and tectonic activity
All of this translated into a confident science fantasy work about how society capitalizes off the people it marginalizes, which also places the responsibility of repairing the Earth on the characters.
If you want your book to read as a confident masterpiece in your genre, it needs to be well-researched.
Connection With Your Interests
Writers are more than writers, they are fully fledged human beings who have interests and experiences outside of the things they write.
John Grisham is a mystery writer who happens to have a background as a lawyer. This gives the protagonists of his works a unique perspective because he is writing through the lens of a lawyer. A Time to Kill was inspired by a real-life case that Grisham had not worked on, but was interested in.
You are writing a fiction novel because you're interested in the story you're telling and the themes you're exploring. This means that you can use your time researching as an excuse to learn more about your interests.
Research plays a vital role in fiction writing. It doesn't matter if you're writing an epic fantasy that takes place in a brand new world or a cozy mystery that takes place in a sleepy village.
Doing proper research can lend a confident air to your writing, which can, and will, translate for the reader. You don't need to book an expensive luxury vacation as part of your research; you can always pick up a book, join a class, or simply listen to a lecture.
At The Urban Writers, our team of highly skilled writers can help you research and craft your book. Our fiction packages are comprehensive, so you're sure to find something to fit your needs!