Research – Toss it over your Shoulder?

In this month’s Writers’ Forum Magazine, author Jenny Colgan is interviewed. She says ‘People get bogged down in research, it’s a total waste of time.’ And she urges writers to focus on the characters.

Whilst I am in full agreement about prioritising character, I’d say to Jenny Colgan, ‘Are you absolutely sure about dissing research? Or was the comment a misquote or an angle for the article?’

Of course, there are writers who get so hung up on research that they use it to avoid writing.   And others who manage to get the writing done, but guard their research like the crown jewels.

For example, in the film Titanic, James Cameron researched the weather conditions at the time the ship went down. Apparently, the sea was calm. Completely calm.  Not a wave nor a ripple. To my eye, even though it’s historically accurate, the sea looks weird.

By contrast, author Ben Aaronovitch uses his research deftly and with great skill. His police procedural details make the fantastic world that he has created with magicians in the Metropolitan police, seem real.

Although sometimes I loathe the drudgery of research I always benefit. In my novel, there is a death and an inquest.  It was only by going to Woking Coroners Court (thank you Gemma Misselbrook) that I got the necessary steer I needed for the end of the book.  I also went to Venice on book research . And yes, I admit it.  Venice was more fun than Woking!

So I’d say, research is crucial. It’s like salt. We need a certain level in our bodies to live. A little used in cooking enhances the dish, too much kills it and could kill the writer’s output.  Or perhaps it’s a matter of taste.

What kind of writer are you? Low research?  Research blocked arteries or a pinch depending on the dish?

About merlenygate

Writer, script editor
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2 Responses to Research – Toss it over your Shoulder?

  1. hannahkarena says:

    When I write historical fiction, I do loads of research beforehand. I don’t know the characters and I am probably missing out on a lot of plot twist opportunities and developments if I start writing without really knowing the time period first. When writing other genres, I research as I go along. It’s usually a good way to help me get through writer’s block because it helps me generate new ideas.

    • merlenygate says:

      That makes sense. How could you write historical fiction without doing research? Interesting that you research as you go along to keep going. I work off a tight outline to get over that one. Thanks.

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