This week: Research is Your FriendEdited by: Fyn
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Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. ~~Wernher von Braun
Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. ~~Zora Neale Hurston
What is research but a blind date with knowledge? ~~Will Harvey
The heart and soul of good writing is research; you should write not what you know but what you can find out about. ~~Robert J. Sawyer
In much of society, research means to investigate something you do not know or understand. ~~Neil Armstrong
It is virtually impossible to write a book without doing research!
Settings even if imaginary have to still stay within the realm of your world to have it be believable. Maples trees are not going to grow in the same place (usually) as, for example, palm trees. The vast majority of deciduous trees are going the shed their leaves in autumn, not spring. Some states have right turns on red, others don't. If I were writing about in France, I would need to check the traffic rules there.
Retirement ages vary vastly. Drinking ages do as well. Where is military service volunteer or mandatory? What were they in 1932 or 1857? Do strawberries grow on bushes or are they plants? (as opposed to a bush?) Does 45th Street in NYC cross Broadway? Where is uptown or downtown delineated? West Side? What are the dividing lines? Where does Manhatten end and the Bronx or Brooklyn begin? When are lambs generally born? Is it the same worldwide?
Are last names generally that of the father or maybe a mother? Are they formed completely different in some countries or cultures? What is the currency in Lima, Peru, Mali, or Zimbabwe?
Back in the dark ages, ie; before the internet, one went to the library, looking at stacks of books to find out what information was necessary. We have it easy these days - we can Google it. Even still, checking multiple searches is the way to go because just because it is 'on the net' doesn't necessarily mean it is correct!
Google Earth or Bing Earth was invaluable. You can plop yourself down literally on the street and see the stores, lights, shops, parks, building types, and street signs. (At least as they were perhaps three or four years ago. Is there a large central green in Pinckney, Michigan? Does it have a gazebo or a playground? Is there really a town named Hell or Paradise or Intercourse? Where? Do horses graze alongside of the main drag in Manitou Springs, CO? Is the two-colored river in Bern or Geneva, Switzerland? How do you travel from where Victor Hugo lived to Sacre Cour in Paris? How long does it take in 1926 to travel 300 miles in a Model T? When were the first stop lights used and where? How did firetrucks/wagons get water from A to fire in the 1700s, 1800s or in the thirties?
Learning how to do these different types of research can be helpful in other areas as well. Planning a trip somewhere you've never been will be much easier and you gain something of familiarity with the place.
Or, as I recently spent several weeks doing: A friend with no close family is in physical rehab. But then, her cell goes to voice mail. Her home phone is disconnected. You know she has someone taking care of medical 'stuff' but you don't know what state she lives in, and just know it is not Michigan.
A while ago, she'd mentioned a doctor's name. Ruffling through months-old notes. Wondering which church she'd mentioned in a large city was 'hers' and might the pastor know anything useful? Finding friends from Facebook and discovering that other names are not there to be found. Checking obituaries. Tugging every string found.
A happy ending in that I found her, the closer (in distance) helpers, what her condition is. The news was discouraging, but at least I found out where she'd been moved to. I have an address now. I can breathe and sleep again. But if I hadn't learned as much as I have over the years researching for stories or books, it would have been an insurmountable task.
Plus. On another layer. For example. When using a real place name as Michigan author, Mitch Albom did in 'The First Phonecall From Heaven' it pulls a reader totally out of the story when you put that town elsewhere in the state on Saginaw Bay rather than in the south-west part of the state over an hour away from Lake Michigan, and then talk about a place being three blocks off the water. Does not compute. (Full disclosure, he had a note at the END of the book explaining the switcheroo but that was after I'd read the book. Didn't help!)
Research adds integrity to your writing. It shows you cared enough about what you write to have it be right, consistent, and logical. Physics must apply and if not, there needs to be a convincing argument as to why. The world of the tale must make sense to your readers for them to become a part of it.
Another reason for research is you find out cool things you might be able to use; things that add details or complexity or nuance. As I come across odd things (like a store in Japan selling large spools of ribbon with a thousand yards on it so you can tie one end to the entrance gate and let it unravels so you don't get lost in the Forest of Jukai) or something else I found recently. Someone sells/donates their hair to be made into wigs. The wig is worn by someone else while committing a crime and sheds hai just as anyone might. DNA tests refer back to the original owner ... try explaining that one! Saved for future reference. Do you know where the term 'worth your salt came from? Same place as where we get the term salary. Look it up! *smile*
Try to get into the habit of researching what you write even if it is something or a subject you know well. It will be worth it in the long run.
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Sumojo laughs: Thanks for the laugh at your expense. I certainly sympathize with the absolute exhaustion that comes with caring for toddlers in your seventies. These young Mums don’t know what they’re asking of us, do they? Anyway, it was all fun and games.🤣
Queen NormaJean HeatingUpAgain says: Ink on the couch? Hmm. Paint the rest of the couch to match? But the idea of the blanket is good. All furniture is ugly until the children grow up, I'm convinced. And why anyone would entertain the idea of having children past the age of 40 is beyond me. There is a good reason you have children when you are young. It's a marathon race.
Lurie Park writes: The Editor's Picks was really fantastic. I enjoyed reading all of them!
New names responding! Makes me so happy!
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