Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!!
Today I’d like to talk about the importance of research in novels.
From the title, you may or may not know what infamous trilogy I’m referencing, where the characters travel from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, and go through Vancouver on the way.
Many assume the author meant Vancouver in Canada, and don’t realize there is a city called Vancouver in Washington state. It’s north of Portland and south of Seattle, making the journey possible. The author could have done a better job of pointing that out, hence the reason people make the incorrect assumption while reading it. Then again, the author could have done a better job of pointing out MANY things in those books… but I digress.
Like most authors, I write books set in cities I’ve made up, cities I’ve lived in, and in cities I’ve never lived in. That last one is not that difficult to do. It’s called RESEARCH.
This can be something as simple as clicking on Google Maps to make sure you have the geography correct.
It can also be as complicated as seeking out people who have lived there and asking them everything from famous hotspots to local history.
I try to choose cities I’ve at least visited more than once, so I was able to absorb a flavor for the way people dress, speak, eat, and think. Even so, a native will always spot poor research or inconsistencies in the way an author portrays their city and its people.
Taking care with research isn’t only limited to the locale of your story. It drills down to the tiniest details.
Never made fresh fish? Then read some recipes before you write your characters doing so.
Your hero is a marine biologist but the closest you’ve come to the ocean or a lake is watching a movie with one in it? Get on Google and read… read…read.
Your characters want to go skydiving but you’ve never jumped out of a plane? Talk to someone who has.
You get the picture, right? DON’T be tempted to simply make something up, or write the experience the way you saw it on a TV show. PLEASE don’t do that. You will not get it right, and your readers WILL call you on that.
We’ve all read books that get things wrong, and it pulls you right out of the story. Those mistakes are so easily avoided in this day and age that it’s embarrassing to make them, and frustrating to read them. The author, or at least their editor, should have caught them.
Does it take time? Yes. But not as much as it did back in the Stone Age before Google and the Internet. Seriously. I had to go to a library and search through a card catalogue to find a book, an encyclopedia, or a magazine article about literally anything I wanted to research, from the smallest detail to the largest period in history.
We have it way too easy now for any author to make mistakes in books that a bit of research would have easily avoided.
Until next week… Happy Writing!