1. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Is research necessary, no matter what?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by BillyxRansom, Aug 21, 2009.

    Regardless of what novel you are writing, should you do extensive research, even if you know a fair amount about the topic? I ask this because I've read time and time again that character sheets are more than important for your novel, no matter what, and you should fill it out completely, even if you aren't going to use half of the elements in the text or prose of the novel itself. Does the same go for researching? Should it be done ALWAYS, when wanting to start a project?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Personally, I think character sheets are utterly worthless. But how much research you need to do depends on how far you are stepping outside your area of expertise. Even so, there will probably be something you'll need to research in the course of your novel.
     
  3. John Locke The Cat
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    John Locke The Cat Member

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    That's a matter of preference, but I would say that the more research I do, the more my novel and characters improve. After probably 4 years of just research, note taking, and rewriting, I've found that my novel is vastly superior to what is was 4 years ago. In fact, if I read what my novel was like 3-4 years ago today, I would want to laugh and/or vomit.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I always do at least a little bit of research before and while I write. And this is true for both novels and short stories. Just make sure you don't get too caught up in researching. Otherwise you'll never get to the actual writing.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It obviously depends on what you're writing...if I wanted to write a novel about WWII, a lot of research would be in order since I know nowhere near enough. But if I was writing about young people in the city I live in, no research would be required really, since I'd already know about what I was writing about.

    As for character sheets, don't feel you need to fill out everything, or anything at all. Just read the questions, see if they stir anything in you, and if they do then you might want to elaborate on them. Character sheets are a great tool for the very beginning of the character creation process, since they get you thinking about your character in ways that might not have occured to you if you only explored them in the text itself, but your character should extend beyond a few arbitrary questions by the time you're finished.

    Like Cog says, characters should be dynamic, but I don't think that makes these style of sheets useless - certainly they're not adequate representations of your characters, just like if you filled one out yourself it wouldn't be an adequate representation of you. But if I looked at a character sheet about you, I would be in a good position to start to build layer upon layer on that basic information until I had constructed a full person based on you. Basically, they offer you nothing you couldn't possibly do yourself, but in my opinion, they make the early stages of the process a little easier and more concrete.
     
  6. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    How much of your improvement as a writer is down to the rewriting rather than the research? Research might make it believable, but rewriting will have made it more and more readable as practice made perfect.

    I'm another one for the research where required gang. But then again, I'm also meticulous to the point of researching weather patterns for new locations. Detail is crucial to making a story believable - whether it be historical fiction, a international thriller, a space opera epic or anything else. Each detail helps to set out a world better. For instance, if I started now on my project surrounding the campaigns that led to the abolition of the death penalty I'd have very little to work with to make the story credible, but give me three weeks and I'd be able to start work on a realistic late 1950s, early 1960s England.

    Obviously, there are some things that need no research (such as things set around your area, for example, or a purely speculative work on a space colony in the far future, where your own imagination is the most crucial thing), but many things will need at least a superficial gloss of researched information, even if major unearthed facts aren't required.
     
  7. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is why it's so much easier to just create your own world.
    CRITIC: Ehm, ehm, excuse me? Women can not remove their faces.
    AUTHOR: Yeah they can.
     
  8. murphcas
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    murphcas Member

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    Depending on what you're writing on depends on how much research you do. That's my opinion anyway. If you are writing about something you have no knowledge of I think it's better to read up on it so there's at least a little bit of understanding.

    Character sheets are helpful but not always necessary. Sometimes I do a character sheet but I never really have more than a page per character, and the page is usually filled with characteristics they have or how they look but nothing super deep.
     
  9. John Locke The Cat
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    John Locke The Cat Member

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    I would say rewriting improves the story, and just writing improves my writing. I would say research has had equal impact; research is good for adding more depth to the plot and characters.

    But yeah, if you're like me, you spend more time researching and rewriting than you do actually writing the story and moving forward. That's a bad side effect to avoid.

    Although I can say rewriting and more research ALWAYS improves my story, how far/long can I go without actually writing it? Right now, that's my biggest problem.
     
  10. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I research all sorts of things while I'm writing...usually it's an excuse to procrastinate in the name of trying to work. :)

    I watch movies, research other books written about similar topics, and depending on setting, characters, and plots, I may do extra research at the library or on google. I consider myself a pretty good googler. I can find just about anything on the internet it just takes some creative wording.

    Research is part of the fun of writing to me. I don't skimp on it, because everything in freaking interesting. Like the current project I am working on...I've been watching zombie movies for the last three weeks. I've been reading fictional books about zombies, and I have a plot line that is incorporating some government conspiracy and aliens...so there is a bit of research on those things too.

    As for character backgrounds and what not...well...sometimes I do them, but most of the time I just write a little notation saying what they look like and what page I've described them on. Otherwise I tend to repeat descriptions later on thinking I haven't done them yet. I write the characters and learn about their pasts while I write. I let them develop naturally as the story needs it too.
     
  11. John Locke The Cat
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    John Locke The Cat Member

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    Have you watched the Australian movie, Undead? It has aliens, zombies, and government conspiracy (I think), so you should check it out. It's been awhile since I've seen it so my memory is hazy, but I know that the aliens had something to do with the zombies, and I remember people trapped in the sky.
     
  12. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    ^ Thanks John, I'll have to take a look. Found some pretty good ones from UK and Germany. I'm finding the foreign market has more zombie movies (though most not even good enough to be called B movies) some are actually really quite good.

    I stumbled upon a film adaption of Autumn, based on a book by the same name penned by David Moody. It was really good, and didn't use the term zombies at all.

    I love research. :)
     
  13. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    The best zombie movie ever is Planet Terror. Period.
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Billy, have you ever read a book where the writer gets something completely wrong? Many people might have missed it because they didn't know the subject, but you didn't miss it. The mistake stuck-out like Johnny Depp trying to play a teen.

    If two characters are playing pool, you should at least know the basic rules of the game.

    If your character is a cop, coach, professor, etc, you should know how these professions.
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Not to turn this into a zombie thread, but if you're writing about zombies you HAVE to read Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
     
  16. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think its necessary to do basic research. Some mistakes you can get by with, but you should have a basic understanding of things. If you have a lifeguard saving someone, you should atleast know how to do CPR(well you should probably know this regardless)

    Its not necessary to do a heavy research on something for most cases.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    from cog:
    all i can do is ditto that, in toto!
     
  18. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    The amount of research you do depends on how realistic you want to make your plot, and what your plot is.

    Let's say you have a fairly simple love story that takes place in your home town. That might not take a lot of research, if you've experienced love in your life.

    Now, let's say the love story turns to murder. You still might not need a lot of research -- unless you want to get into details about forensics, the weapon used, the morticians and a realistic description of where the femoral artery is and what happens to the muscles after 14 hours of decompose, say...

    Let's say the lover is from Egypt, and has a certain culture. The murderer travels to Egypt, and hides among the pyramids, and it turns out, committed murder because of some secret based in reality. Now, you've got a story that needs lots of research.

    Now... let's see, you've got to research a specific type of gun, ballistics, Egypt, pyramids, the methodology of morticians... then, while you're researching Egypt, you decide, they're going to travel in this SUV... may be you'll find out you have to study SUVs! You learn what you need to research while you're writing the story.

    The closer your story is to what you already know, or to the absolute fanciful (aliens you completely make up) the less you need to research.

    As for character sheets...

    I started out doing character sheets and dropped them, I even forgot I had them until I found them recently on my hard drive. But they keep haunting my thoughts as something I should do. I know Cognito recommends against them, but I've read writing books that suggest them.

    Here's my concern, and why I think I might bring them back:

    It takes me a long time to write, and I forget details.

    What's to keep me from, on page 102, mentioning my character's mother Sally, the hairdresser, and then, on page 397, saying my character's mother's name was Sarah, and she was a seamstress?

    I seriously think I should at least, save some of the basic facts about my characters, at least during my redraft, so I don't make any big boo-boos. But the main development of my characters took place while I was writing my story.

    Charlie
     
  19. Far Away
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    Far Away Member

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    I disagree! I've never been able to create a good character without the help of some kind of organized plotting of information. I can never go into the story blindly.
     

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