Monday, March 4, 2013

The Woes of Research

I'm done making excuses; I am a terrible blogger. But I have something to say, so here we go.

Research, it's something that anybody who has been to high school is familiar with, but any writer can tell you it comes with the job. Love it or hate it, it's there. And researching things can be fun? Anybody else ever get caught in that endless Wikipedia trap? You start off checking a quick fact about sign language, and before you know it you have twenty tabs open and you're reading about different types of tornadoes.

Then you realize two hours have gone by, and the cursor in your word document is left off blinking in the middle of a sentence.

But tell me that isn't fun. There is a less fun side to researching though. There's that research that completely destroys the plot. By that I mean, in the middle of writing, you take the time to check something for realism, and then you find out that the truth is completely different, and your plot no longer works. Your main character can't put an end to the war because the cell phone didn't exist in the eighteenth century.

That might be just a slight exaggeration. But sometimes research really can be hindrance. The story of the character with a mental disorder might be portrayed wrong if there isn't enough research -- people may get offended -- but so much research, and so many things learned, can destroy the desire to write the piece, or it could paralyze the writer from fear of not fitting enough information in the piece. Or worse: the writer might include a dreaded info-dump.

There is the argument of "fiction." That is, "It's fiction. It's made up. Write something because it's not true anyway!" That may work in some cases, but sometimes it's just not enough. Most of the time. Most of the time the story needs to be rooted in reality to draw in the reader.

So where's that fine line of balance between too much research and just enough? Probably somewhere in the editing stage, as long as the writer can push his or her way there.

1 comment:

  1. I have sometimes hit a bit of research that has thrown a monkey wrench into my plans, but so far I haven't hit anything that's ruined a whole plot.

    Well, there was that stuff about mining towns in the Poconos around 1900 and how my sympathetic and benevolent mine owner was completely unrealistic ... but that plot was already ruined. The research was just the nail in the coffin, labeled: "Yup, I knew that manuscript was dead."

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