Friday, January 20, 2017

Research is your friend

This month on YAtopia we're looking at new beginnings as the way to kick off the New Year. And I thought I'd discuss starting anew - starting a new writing project o. And my best advice to people is research.

Research in stories is becoming more and more important. The reality is that it always should have been, but there seemed to be a perception that 'hey, we're authors, we can make shit up.'

And don't get me wrong, we can. In fact, I've often said that phrase in jest when talking to friends. If we want to decide there are flying monsters that live in outer space that attack a space shuttle then we can make that shit up.

Research is important for making sure you make the real world elements of your story believable. And it's especially important for ensuring good representation of people, no matter what cultural group they belong to, or how they identify sexually or gender-wise, or any other identifiers such as mental health, etc. But today, I'm not going down that rabbit hole as it's a separate topic on it's own.

What I've found is how great research is for generating story ideas, whether it's for a brand new story, or if you've started a story and you're experiencing some writer's block. Jumping on google and exploring elements of your storyline can give you amazing ideas.

I'll give some examples from a couple of my stories. I've got one with a far-future setting, so I explored some technologies and advancements that could exist in the future, such as data storage on crystals. This became a really important element of my world building. In another series I needed to have elements of mind control, so I researched the topic and discovered some brain-washing techniques that were used on prisoners of war. That technique formed the basis of a major plot element in my story.

And nowadays you don't have to simply pop in a search on google and read webpages on the topic. You'll likely find videos as well where you can listen to tutorials on topics, and vlogs/interviews on people's experiences.

But, of course, you don't have to do all the research virtually. In a recent YAtopia post, Chris talked about the importance of imagery. One of my stories is set in Brisbane and features a sandstone building. I don't get to Brisbane very often, and when I do, I don't always get to go to areas that have those types of buildings. So I got my mum to go and get a bit handsy with the building and report back to me. Luckily I am getting to go to that area of Brisbane next week, and I'm going to try to subtly sniff a building and lay some hands on it.

Research can help expand your story ideas, flesh out your stories, and become a way better writer. It will help you add authenticity to your work. It can help you take the seed of an idea, and grow it into an oak. Never underestimate the power of research.

1 comment:

  1. Research lends an authentic voice to a manuscript. I'm writing a urban fantasy that includes an Irish foreign exchange student. I watched video after video--even found regionally appropriate words within Ireland. I love the ability to research, but I'm always cautious of the rabbit hole too.