As an Historical Fiction author, research is paramount. I could write and write and write on this topic! It might come as a bit of a surprise, then, that I’m about to throw out the crazy suggestion that research is best performed around the edges of writing a story. Whatever your story is, make your book about the story first, and then the research.
|A few books for research and inspiration|
I absolutely love researching things. I love delving into the realms of history and, if I’m honest, I tend to lose myself there. Despite that, my books stay 100% focused on the adventures and choices of my characters. Most things (unless you’re writing in a speculative field) can be researched to fit in with your story. It doesn’t matter if you're looking at historic events, geographical phenomena, or the impact and effects of drugs, you can usually find a way to make the research fit the story.
Most writers have already done some form of research before they put pen to paper. After all, you chose your genre for a reason, so you must have had some previous knowledge or idea of that topic. My course of action is usually:
· get an idea
· check the general gist and attitude of the time and place
· write the story
· research finer details as I write
This way, I can match my research with my characters, having them brush shoulders with Wellington, or storm Seringapatam, or both! I am spectacularly proud of the fact readers commend me on the way in which my books are wholly believable whilst being intrinsically fictitious.
Here are a few thoughts on research for books:
- It’s your character’s story, not yours. Research as though you’re your character. See things through their eyes and not with our 20:20 hindsight and understanding.
- It’s all about the story. You should be able to tell your family/friend/neighbour the outline of your plot without ever having to reference how much research you’ve done. The research should just enhance your story, not dominate it.
- You’re not writing a textbook (unless you are, in which case: ignore this point!). Don’t throw in so much detail that your readers feel they’re about to be made to sit an exam on the subject. Slotting in samples of research, dotting them throughout a book, allows your reader to be immersed in your research and knowledge without feeling intimidated by it.
- There is no such thing as too much research, only poor inclusion of said research. The more you know, the better the flow! Extensive research allows your world and characters to feel tangible and sympathetic, both things which are central to effective writing.