Monday, December 5, 2011

Doing Your Homework

Tip of the Day: Check out Cafe Press's line of Gifts for Writers from various vendors.

I never understand when someone says they don't like to research, as in "I wrote a contemporary romance because I hate researching." Researching is so much easier than writing. Look, here's me putting my feet up reading an interesting book or article. Yup, that's worlds more relaxing than stressing out over my seventh revision of Chapter 1.

I've been reading manuscripts lately, and I've only run across one where the author dumped in too much research without tying his information to the main character. Most manuscripts, even contemporaries, suffer from too little research. For example, a main character who wants to be a golf pro should think about golf, be seen golfing, own a set of golf clubs and be able to tell them apart. If I don't see that, I don't believe that character wants to be a golf pro. I believe that the writer didn't want to read a copy of Golf magazine.

I recently read a manuscript with a jail break. It was totally believable because the author researched the jail trusty system, which I didn't know about. Now, maybe a prison guard would have found it hard to suspend disbelief, but I bought it completely. And then the next day, I read in the newspaper about a local jail break where the escapee took advantage of being a jail trustee. (And then he got caught the next week hanging out in a nearby trailer park. Why do prison escapees always "hide" where they're so easy to find?)

So contemporaries need research too, and it's actually a lot more fun than some other types of research. I have a great idea for a post-disaster WaterWorld type story, but I'd have to research sailing ships and bosuns and rigging and mizzenmasts and such. I'm not sure I can stomach that, so that story's been on the backburner for a while. I may never write it just because I don't want to know what a forecastle is. There are way more interesting things to learn about.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

"I believe that the writer didn't want to read a copy of Golf magazine."


Kate Fall said...

Thanks, Jenn. It kind of amazes me when people give their characters interests they obviously have no interest in themselves, but I'm sure I'm guilty of having done it too.

Andrea Mack said...

Great post, Kate. I often find myself doing research when I should be writing, because it's easier.

DeenaML said...

Kate, this is so true! I was reading more about cadmium-115 and isotopes for my book than I should have. Fun knowledge that was much easier to look into than writing!