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Monday, April 28, 2014

DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW?

For years people always said “Write what you know.”  

I’m sure people must have said that to you at sometime. My problem is I write murder and suspense. Personally I don’t know anything about that, and I wasn’t prepared to go out and stalk someone or kill them.

So I do research. I take workshops at conferences with FBI, Police, Coroners, etc. and also online. I have books on WITSEC, The Body Farm, serial killers, forensics and poisons, just to name a few. I use Google and research online for information on murder and also for settings. You can find almost anything about a town or city or the area. And you can also ask about things on loops and get great information.

I asked a friend who writes historical, didn’t she find she had to do a lot of research. She laughed and said once you had the basics for a period in time – clothing, food, customs and language it didn’t change a lot. She said she couldn’t write contemporary because of the amount of research involved.  And she’s right. Things keep changing. A few years ago no one had cell phones and tablets.

So – do you write what you know? Do you do research?  Do you go to the library to do research? Or do you do most of your research online? Or maybe you’re lucky enough to travel to all your settings.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on research for today’s writer.

17 comments:

  1. I often have to stop and look something up when I'm writing contemporary, but the moment I gave any thought to writing historical western fiction, I found myself submersed in history books and research. Even the simple things have to be double checked. What was common in Virginia, New York. or Pennsylvania in 1896, wasn't common in Wyoming.There were no superstores, only a general store and that might be a day's drive away. It's been fascinating and I've enjoyed it.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by. Historical western would definitely be research. Interesting that it would be so different in some States. Thanks for that.

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  2. Enjoyed your post, Beverley. I write Romantic Suspense and it seems I'm always doing research. I love going to the library, but nowadays it's easier to look something up on the internet. And I always double check my information. Sometimes I go directly to the source, police, doctor, and friends in certain fields. I've been lucky that these people have been kind enough to answer my questions.

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    1. Thanks Rose. I agree, I write romantic suspense and I'm always doing research.

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  3. Beverley, I ENJOY research. Used to be a scientist, and still find a fascination with learning new things.

    For my book Ascending Spiral, I researched the Viking period in Ireland, the Irish rebellion of 1798, the condition of convicts in Australia in the early 1800s, and outback life 1830-1900. It was a lot of fun, and actually quite a bit of it merely validated what I already knew.

    There is another aspect. All good writing is actually about human nature (even speculative fiction). We are all potentially experts on that.

    :)
    Bob

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    1. Hi Bob, I love your last point that all writing is about human nature and we are all (potentially) experts on that topic. I'd never thought about that.
      And I've read your book and you definitely did a lot of research for it. But it helped make a wonderful story.

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  4. HI, Beverley! It's kind of funny, but I do research differently. For example, I wanted my heroine to bake cakes. And I wanted specific fruitcake recipes, not just the standard one. So I did research on fruitcake origins and different recipes. Once, I had to research plumbing. (it's funny) But most of the time, I know like your historical author said. If I were to take on Navy Seals, I'd have to do more. That would probably be fun,too.

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    1. Okay, your research is definitely different, but sounds like a lot of fun. I'm not sure researching the Seals would be as much fun as plumbing research. :)

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  5. Hi Beverley! I have a really eclectic educational b.g. which I draw on a lot: medical, engineering physics, advertising & sales promotion, art & graphic design. But almost always I end up doing quite a bit of research.

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    1. Wow, that is eclectic but interesting that you still end up doing research - even with "what you know."

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  6. Hi Beverley, or my research I've searched on-line for F.B.I., Homeland Security, SEALS, and Mexican cartels. I hope if I'm traced and checked out, it's by a HOT COP, lol

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    1. I know what you mean and good luck with the Hot Cop.
      I used to research a lot of bomb making and guns and worried that someone might come knocking on my door.

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  7. In my novel series about old-time rodeo cowgirls, I have written what I know, but I've also done extensive research. That's what I love about writing--there's so much to learn!

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    1. Sounds like you do a combination of both and it's working for you. I have to admit, I do find research interesting, especially if you find out something you didn't expect.

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  8. I think that research is a part of whatever writing you do... You must have an understanding of what you are writing about to pull your readers in.

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  9. Good point Melissa. I totally agree,

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  10. I write romantic suspense, so while I might know something about romance (blushing), I've got to research the suspense part. Great post, by the way!

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