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Word Jedi
11-16-2009, 06:46 AM
On the average, how much time do you spend researching topics and subjects in your novel? Or screenplay, I'm not biased!
My novel is about a demon hunter tracking a fallen angel who's kicking up trouble in a small New Jersey town. What the hero doesn't know is that the fallen angel is looking for something that, if found, could make him immensely powerful.
So I'm reading lots of stuff about fallen angels and folklore and stuff.
During the week I plan on visiting with a priest.
But I don't want to spend too much time on research.

Jersey Chick
11-16-2009, 08:00 AM
I don't think there's any set time. You research as much as you need to research. It needs to be enough so you know what you're talking about because someone, somewhere will know if you're making it up.

Like, if you have your hero pumping his own gas in that small NJ town - I'm going to call you and say, "Um... it's against the law to pump your own gas in NJ."

(okay, I won't call you, but I will know you didn't research that. it's the little things...)

blacbird
11-16-2009, 09:06 AM
(okay, I won't call you, but I will know you didn't research that. it's the little things...)

Exactly this. Find out what you really need to find out. As in, in manuscripts I've been asked to review, you can't make a joke about the Bermuda Triangle in 1941 (the term wasn't invented until 1964, in the famous book of that title by Charles Berlitz), or observe pronghorn antelopes while riding a train across Kansas (they don't live in Kansas). If there's a detail you don't know, FIND OUT. We've never lived in a time when information was less easily available.

caw

BookWhirl.com
11-16-2009, 10:02 AM
Your research will depend on how much information is needed for your subject. Say for example, if your subject is about demon. To elucidate long time of research, DETERMINE WHAT YOU NEED. First, know on the depth of your research. Like what you want to know about the subject. Ex. demon profiles, types of demons, rankings, powers, real encounters, etc. Second, have to jot down possible resources about this matter. Like the internet (make sure the sites are reliable), books, films, priests, pastors, exorcists, etc.

KTC
11-16-2009, 02:22 PM
almost none for me. maybe a couple of minutes here or there...but I know almost everything.

Wayne K
11-16-2009, 02:23 PM
Almost?

LuckyH
11-16-2009, 02:42 PM
I don't think there's any set time. You research as much as you need to research. It needs to be enough so you know what you're talking about because someone, somewhere will know if you're making it up.

Like, if you have your hero pumping his own gas in that small NJ town - I'm going to call you and say, "Um... it's against the law to pump your own gas in NJ."

(okay, I won't call you, but I will know you didn't research that. it's the little things...)

I sometimes neglect to do sufficient research, and the example of pumping your own gas in NJ is perfect to illustrate the point.

If an American failed to do such research and wrote of pumping his own gas anywhere in the UK, it would have a different meaning altogether and wouldn’t even involve a petrol station.

It is the little things.

Priene
11-16-2009, 03:01 PM
Like, if you have your hero pumping his own gas in that small NJ town - I'm going to call you and say, "Um... it's against the law to pump your own gas in NJ."

This reminds me of when Ali Smith had a Norfolk person addressing a young man as "lad", which is completely wrong and (speaking as a Norfolk boy) a bit irksome, but it didn't stop The Accidental getting shortlisted for the Booker.

So don't agree with your conclusion. OK, the author's got a minor detail wrong, but that's not going to detract from enjoyment of the book for almost any reader. If you're not from NJ, you most likely won't know a mistake's been made, and even if you're from NJ, you probably won't care.

KTC
11-16-2009, 03:28 PM
Almost?

There is the odd thing I am not privy to. You know, location of a certain Indian restaurant in Maine, name of a rare flower in Tunisia...that sort of thing. Otherwise, I'm good.

Linda Adams
11-16-2009, 03:46 PM
How time do I spend? I actually don't know because most of my research is piecemeal. There's always a big topic I need to read a couple of books on, if they're available. After that, I do the research as I need it. I might need to know what fireman's helmet in Los Angeles looks like, so I'll pop on the Internet for five minutes or pick up a book at the library to scan. Sometimes I'm even reading a newspaper, and I run across an article that's perfect, or I go to a musuem for fun, and it turns out the solution to the problem is there.

Research is something that works differently for everyone. Some people like to research extensively up front until they have all the material. That's not me. While I enjoy the research, the finding of the information makes me what to start the book. Plus, I always find stuff along the way that I had utterly no clue I would need until I got there. But bear in mind that my books are also on subjects where I can do this. I start with what I'm already familiar with and build on my knowledge, rather than starting with something where I have to start from scratch.

Brutal Mustang
11-16-2009, 03:48 PM
This reminds me of when Ali Smith had a Norfolk person addressing a young man as "lad", which is completely wrong and (speaking as a Norfolk boy) a bit irksome, but it didn't stop The Accidental getting shortlisted for the Booker.

So don't agree with your conclusion. OK, the author's got a minor detail wrong, but that's not going to detract from enjoyment of the book for almost any reader. If you're not from NJ, you most likely won't know a mistake's been made, and even if you're from NJ, you probably won't care.

Bad facts are like warts though--a good book is better without them. Personally, I am one of those people for whom bad facts can make a good book atrocious. I'm likely to drop such a book, and never read from that author again.

Fran
11-16-2009, 03:50 PM
So don't agree with your conclusion. OK, the author's got a minor detail wrong, but that's not going to detract from enjoyment of the book for almost any reader. If you're not from NJ, you most likely won't know a mistake's been made, and even if you're from NJ, you probably won't care.

I agree the reader may not care, but the writer probably should. And you never know if you're going to hit on something that infuriates a reader. Mine is when people use 'England' and 'Britain' as if they're interchangeable and mean the same thing - grrrrr. Grrrrr. Would it stop me reading? It would if I knew it was going to recur, like the biography of Queen Victoria I tried to read which kept calling her the Queen of England. If the biographer was too ignorant to find out what countries Victoria ruled why would I take anything she wrote seriously? I don't know if research can possibly limit all mistakes, but it's always worth trying to in my view.

scarletpeaches
11-16-2009, 03:51 PM
Exactly this. Find out what you really need to find out. As in, in manuscripts I've been asked to review, you can't make a joke about the Bermuda Triangle in 1941 (the term wasn't invented until 1964, in the famous book of that title by Charles Berlitz), or observe pronghorn antelopes while riding a train across Kansas (they don't live in Kansas). If there's a detail you don't know, FIND OUT. We've never lived in a time when information was less easily available.

cawSometimes you don't know that you don't know, though.

Rarri
11-16-2009, 03:52 PM
On the average, how much time do you spend researching topics and subjects in your novel? Or screenplay, I'm not biased!
My novel is about a demon hunter tracking a fallen angel who's kicking up trouble in a small New Jersey town. What the hero doesn't know is that the fallen angel is looking for something that, if found, could make him immensely powerful.
So I'm reading lots of stuff about fallen angels and folklore and stuff.
During the week I plan on visiting with a priest.
But I don't want to spend too much time on research.

On average? It'd be a skewed average at best. Main WIP needed a couple of weeks of research (albeit not constant), another WIP needed five minutes. It depends on what you're writing. Don't ignore the need to research though, spend as much time as is necessary to be properly prepared, otherwise it shows.

Priene
11-16-2009, 04:01 PM
Mine is when people use 'England' and 'Britain' as if they're interchangeable and mean the same thing - grrrrr. Grrrrr. Would it stop me reading? It would if I knew it was going to recur, like the biography of Queen Victoria I tried to read which kept calling her the Queen of England. If the biographer was too ignorant to find out what countries Victoria ruled why would I take anything she wrote seriously?

I'll concede that one. I'm not arguing against research, but there's got to be a limit. What if Queen Victoria is wearing a crinoline dress in 1844 but -- I'm completely making stuff up here -- crinolines didn't come into fashion before 1850? What if she uses an everyday expression which didn't get used before 1860? Zadie Smith did that with modern in White Teeth, where her characters use expressions which weren't current, as far as I remember, at that time. At some point you're going to have to put down the research and hope there are no howlers.

Fran
11-16-2009, 04:20 PM
What if Queen Victoria is wearing a crinoline dress in 1844 but -- I'm completely making stuff up here -- crinolines didn't come into fashion before 1850? What if she uses an everyday expression which didn't get used before 1860?

Yeah, I'll concede that's the kind of thing that would go right over my head. As I say, the odd thing doesn't bother me, but if someone was being blatantly ignorant it would put me off.

JJ Cooper
11-16-2009, 04:44 PM
My books are stacked on the 'fiction' side of stores. I do my best to add that level of 'authenticity' but, if it doesn't fit I'll make it up.

JJ

Jersey Chick
11-16-2009, 05:54 PM
I used the NJ gas thing as a point. I think your research should be as accurate as possible - to the smallest detail you can find.

I love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series - but the one thing that stands out most in my mind about the entire 15 books (and counting) series? She had one of her minor characters be a former Giants cheerleader. The Giants don't have cheerleaders.

Did it make me stop reading her books? No. But out of the entire series, that's the thing that stands out in my mind. And what's worse, Evanovich is from here. She should know that. If you're writing a character who's supposed to have a certain job, it's the writer's job to make sure the character's job even exists. It wouldn't take much to double check something like that, since not all football teams have cheerleaders... The same holds true for most other areas of research as well.

It bugs me. Maybe not enough to make me stop reading, but it bugs me just the same.

Shadow_Ferret
11-16-2009, 06:04 PM
Years.



Like, if you have your hero pumping his own gas in that small NJ town - I'm going to call you and say, "Um... it's against the law to pump your own gas in NJ."

(okay, I won't call you, but I will know you didn't research that. it's the little things...)

Really? That's odd.

Jersey Chick
11-16-2009, 06:36 PM
What's odd - that it's against the law to pump your own gas here or that I won't really call the OP? ;)

Shadow_Ferret
11-16-2009, 06:38 PM
That there's a law against pumping your own gas.

dirtsider
11-16-2009, 06:44 PM
I don't think there's any set time. You research as much as you need to research. It needs to be enough so you know what you're talking about because someone, somewhere will know if you're making it up.

Like, if you have your hero pumping his own gas in that small NJ town - I'm going to call you and say, "Um... it's against the law to pump your own gas in NJ."

(okay, I won't call you, but I will know you didn't research that. it's the little things...)

And it's worse when you have the resources available where you can either look it up yourself or come to a place like this one and ask. I know there's a lot of stuff on NJ out there.

So where are you going to locate your small NJ town? North Jersey? South Jersey? There's a big difference in landscape.

Phaeal
11-16-2009, 07:23 PM
almost none for me. maybe a couple of minutes here or there...but I know almost everything.

I knew that.

Phaeal
11-16-2009, 07:35 PM
Like, if you have your hero pumping his own gas in that small NJ town - I'm going to call you and say, "Um... it's against the law to pump your own gas in NJ."

(okay, I won't call you, but I will know you didn't research that. it's the little things...)

This is why I prefer to set stories in a place I know very well, or in a place I've made up from scratch.

Can't pump your own gas in New Jersey? I would have gotten that wrong -- it's difficult NOT to pump your own gas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Hollywood often makes this kind of mistake. Like when it made a movie putatively about Rhode Island and had the NYC hero whine that he couldn't find a doughnut in RI, where, spit out any window and you'll hit a Dunkin Donuts, Honeydew Donuts, Tim Hortons, or one of the many independent shops. Hell, RI even has clam doughnuts (called clam cakes to confuse the outsiders even more.)

Write what you know is a good adage where setting's concerned.

scarletpeaches
11-16-2009, 07:38 PM
I knew that.He knew that you knew that.

Jamesaritchie
11-16-2009, 08:57 PM
I spend a week reading two thick, informative books on the subject(s) at hand. Then I start writing. Any little details, such as not being allowed to pump your own gas, which strikes me as just really weird and big brotherly, or what kind of underwear, if any, Robinhood might have worn, can be done on the fly, as the story needs it, and usually in a few minutes at most.

I think it's important to remember that researching is not writing, and shouldn't be allowed to slow down the writing. This means I'm usually researching the next book I'm going to write, not the one I'm working on at the time.

KTC
11-16-2009, 09:01 PM
He knew that you knew that.

presumptuous of you, but yes he did.

backslashbaby
11-16-2009, 09:22 PM
I do a ton of research. But I like writing the kinds of works that slip in little things the reader probably didn't know and will [hopefully] find interesting.

My WIP involves real Transylvanian folklore and real modern places in Romania and Hungary, politics/culture and all. I lived there for a little while, but the research is still immense. I love it, though :)

Jersey Chick
11-16-2009, 11:37 PM
That there's a law against pumping your own gas.

Yep - NJ and Oregon (I think it's still illegal in OR). Don't know why - but I'm not complaining. I don't want to do it. It doesn't cost any more to have the service station guy do it and I don't have to get out of my car in the crappy weather.

I don't know what they do to you if you get caught, but I do know that the quickest way to get service is to act as though you're going to pump your own - brings the guy over in flash. Maybe the station gets fined or something, :D

It's a silly law.

katiemac
11-17-2009, 12:57 AM
It's a silly law.

Silly, but it always struck me as a way to create jobs.


I spend a week reading two thick, informative books on the subject(s) at hand.

I like to do this. Usually it's enough knowledge to get me going, generate a whole bunch of ideas, and then when I'm writing I'll usually stumble into areas where I need to do more research ... but I just highlight those and keep going, unless I think the answer will affect my bigger plot.

Kate Thornton
11-17-2009, 01:27 AM
Usually my stories come out of trips I go on where I get stuck on the town/scenery/tourist spot or whatever and irritate the local folks no end by hanging out in the diners and shops and striking up conversations with people. Then I go home and write. Details that may have escaped me during my real life trip I either look up or make up, depending on if they are static (scenery, locale, etc.) or dynamic (character driven.)

Of course, it's fiction, so I make up a lot of locales and base them on (or near) real places that grabbed me. Sometimes I get it all wrong and have to do major search and replace missions.

Word Jedi
11-17-2009, 01:34 AM
So where are you going to locate your small NJ town? North Jersey? South Jersey? There's a big difference in landscape.

Northwest New Jersey, actually. Either the town I live in or a combination of my town and a smaller one I've visited a million times in the same area. If I combine them, then I'll use a fictional name for the town.

Word Jedi
11-17-2009, 01:37 AM
After doing some research today, I discovered that a church a mile away from my house served as a triage for soldiers during the Revolution. George Washington came to visit the wounded.
This discovery has added an element to my story I had overlooked.
Very awesome.

Jersey Chick
11-17-2009, 02:18 AM
See? Research is your friend. :D

JulieHowe
11-17-2009, 02:24 AM
The other amazing thing about Oregon, at least in the smaller towns, is that (as of 3 years ago, the last time I was there) people were still writing checks to pay for their gas, and in some fast food restaurants like Carl's Jr., (as well as a few Denny's type restaurant chains) there are handwritten signs taped to the doors letting customers know that local checks will be accepted as payment.

Word Jedi
11-17-2009, 02:37 AM
See? Research is your friend. :D
It sure seems that way!