Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Importance of Research

Along with being in the throes of a terrible cold, I'm in the throes of researching my next story. I began with resource material I had in my bookcase: I found bits of information in Forensics for Dummies and Forensics and Fiction both by D.P.Lyle, but not nearly enough of what I needed.

Then I went to Google and online groups, looking for sources and people who might be able to help. After printing out a few articles, I ended up at Amazon, ordering No Stone Unturned—The True Story of NecroSearch International, the World's Premier Forensic Investigators by Steve Jackson, FBI Handbook of Crime Scene Forensics by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Buzzards and Butterflies—Human Remains Detection Dogs by J.C. Judah. They arrived yesterday, and already they're getting hit with my highlighter and stuck with sticky notes (and probably a few germs).

These will be a great start, will probably keep me out of trouble, but I'll want to sit down and talk with people who are really involved in those worlds if I can.

Why is research important? It's fiction, right?

I'm a fiction reader who enjoys learning factual things through stories. I get downright cranky if I find out the author led me astray.

I have friends who have been known to refuse to read a really good book because the writer got something wrong in the first few pages.

My first complete manuscript (currently stewing and waiting for a read-through) has medical elements in it that needed to be right. I not only did some research on my own, I found a personal resource. Why? I assume people in the medical field also read from time to time. Assuming they might be a part of my audience, I owe it to them to take the time to get things right.

Writers owe it to their readers to tell a good story. A good story has elements of truth. Truth isn't usually something I can make up. Bits of researched facts bring volume to my writing, not in words, but in depth. My reader is more likely to experience a different world, if they recognize that it was created with some level of expert knowledge. If they trust me.

And there's one more very important thing that Robert Liparulo brought to my attention. In Bob's opinion (and I agree with him) the major cause of writer's block is one of two things: either you don't know your characters as you should, or you didn't do your research.

So, I'll be going back to my character development and cadaver research. And crack open more cough medicine.

CR: Heat Lightning by John Sandford.

It's all better with friends.

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