Friday, February 5, 2010

Get Thee to a Library!

Happy Friday, all! Now that I'm back from work, beginning to calm down from the loss of the coolest tree on the planet, taking a pause from watching my sister's dance troupe compete, and forcibly stopping my panic attack after I realized that my "magic way to rearrange my subplot and make everything perfect" is not going to work, I will talk about one of the most fantabulous things ever to exist.


Research, my friends, is good. It is fun. It is your FRIEND. It wants to make your writing better!

In all seriousness, though, research is good, and it can help anyone, writing any story. Take my work, for example.

The things(or places)my characters are involved in:
1. 18th century France
2. 19th century England
3. Several made up universes
4. Magic
5. Run around in the woods with werewolves
6. Fall in love (take that as far as you want, or not)
7. Swordfights
8. Battles (involving everything from swords, bows, and trebuchets to cannons and muskets)
9. Terrible disasters involving the potential loss of life, family, and world-as-they-know-it
10. Horseback riding, sometimes cross-country

Things from that list I have actually done:
1. Horseback riding (though never cross-country)

That's it. Just one. ONE thing, out of everything that my characters have ever done, just one shared experience. That's not a lot. Some people tend to stick to what I call the "Jane Austen method;" that is, "write what you know." Not to say anything against Jane Austen, as I love her work, but where's the fun in that? Writing is supposed to take you to places and times you'll never be, and allow you to do things you might never do or be able to do in real life. But research allows you to do it as accurately as possible.

My research has taken many forms - from several books on Victorian society/etiquette/etc., to a book by a French university professor on commodities in France from 1600-1800 to sending Patricia C. Wrede a frantic email asking about Victorian slang to the wonder that is Wikipedia to asking my mom if French people would've eaten toast for breakfast. On AW, the lovely and talented Choco has taken to rounding up all the East Coasters on the board and asking them questions about when leaves start to turn colors in fall and such. Other writers on AW have spoken about Google Earth stalking the towns they've decided to write about.

Research is so important. I have been known to stall a story for days if I cannot properly research a scene. Everything matters, especially in a historical work, but in a contemporary one as well, since continuity issues can really jar a reader out of the fluidity of your narrative. From picking the right names for your setting and time period, to making sure the characters know what fork to use if they're that type, to researching what's actually on TV; it all helps to make your story more cohesive and more enjoyable.

Okay. Time to go watch some more dance competition numbers... and worry about the girls playing lacrosse in the hallway right outside my open door.


  1. Haha from that list I've only done horseback riding too :) Cool post

  2. Awesome post! I so agree about the researching part and I don't think writing ONLY what you've done/know is much fun. My characters are doing all sorts of weird things I've never even tried.

    And lolol you mentioned me! *feels honored* I love you East Coasters :D And Google Earth is so fun in a slightly stalker way!

    *huggles* I love the 18th century and 19th century and the stuff you've been researching sounds fun :D

  3. Yes! I meant to link to you in the post as well but I forgot... *goes to fix that*

    And yeah, personal experience does help (yay horseback riding, BC!) but research is fun! And it's the closest I'll ever get to Victorian London anyway, so... ;P

  4. Ooooh, research is soo important! Huge plot-holes stare back at me if I don't research *blinks*

  5. oh hey. this is pleasing to read, even from the perspective of illustration - we need reference constantly.

  6. Hey, Ella! You should comment more often. I mention you a lot, after all. :)