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  1. greyhoody
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    greyhoody Member

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    Research for a novel

    Discussion in 'Research' started by greyhoody, Aug 19, 2009.

    How much research do you usually do for a novel?

    I have an idea in my head to write a novel about obsession so I am thinking of contacting alot of shady people (Richard Rameriez, Alexander Puchinski, Cyndy Hendy, Karla Homolka, Mark David Chapman, John Hinckley Jr. and going on to my local streets to talk to heroin addicts.) Is this taking research too far?

    EDIT:
    Oh and if you wondering why I picked these people
    Richard Ramirez and Alexander Puchinski were obsesses with abstract idea; Legacy.

    Cyndy Hendy, Karla Homolka, Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley Jr. were obsessed with a person. The first so obsessed with them that they would do horrendous things for that person. Mark David Chapman was so obsessed with John Lennon that once he disappointed him he killed him. And John Hinckley Jr. was so obsessed with a fictional portrayal by a person that he flew off the handle just to impress them.

    Heroin addicts for the simple reason they live every consumed by the idea of attaining something.

    Finally I am just wondering anyone know of any famous examples of people who were in cults. (obviously Tom Cruise won't respond to me :p )
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    However much is necessary. As you write, if you don't know something that you need to, then you go and find out. That's research.

    For the last novel I wrote, pretty much all my research was from my History classes on the Spanish civil war.
     
  3. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It completely depends on the kind of novel/story.

    Non-fiction Asian cuisine for westerners: probably lots
    Non-fiction humor book: probably very little
    Fiction fantasy: eh, not really
    Fiction Hard Science Fiction: research, yes

    So, the moral of the story is that one must research when called for, but do not get mired and bogged down in the swamp of research. In the case of research papers, most of it will be researched data, but for fiction, it is used to enhace and authenticate it.
    :)

    PS, unless you are an undercover narcotics cop or an investigative reporter I do not recommend trying to inflitrate drug-user society or cult/fringe groups. There was that guy who became a Hell's Angel to write about them, but they also almost killed him:eek:
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your knowledge of material that goes into your book should equal or exceed that of the majority of your readers. Whether that be physical laws, the night life of an entertainment district in Mumbai, or the character of a notorious serial killer, the amount of research necessary depends on the level of exposure in your story and the obscurity of the knowledge you are researching.
     
  5. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I think a lot of established writers in the genre would disagree with you- for example I cannot imagine the works of R. Scott Bakker resulted from an 'eh, not really' level of research.

    For the op: you might find better results researching books by specialists who write about obsession, people who have observed and studied it throughout their careers. Edit: For the people you mentioned, you should be able to find books on them, I'm pretty sure a few books and a good many articles- as well as at least one movie- has been written about Karla Homolka.
     
  6. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    I have spent ages researching alchemy for a piece of writing that only barely touches on the subject simply because it was really interesting. I'm sure I'll find a way to incorporate some of my 'learnings' somewhere else though... maybe. :)

    And I think that fantasy often requires more research. The Wheel of Time series was filled with alternate views of Arthurian legend. Some of the details of tactics, swordfighting, sailing, brewing, baking, milling, and many other skills that I've read about in many books are all obviously well reseached and accurate.

    So yeah, research is helpful.
     
  7. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course fantasy writers research, all writers research, don't take what I'm saying and twist my words around.

    I think you know EXACTLY what I meant, despite what I said. You can't compare a fantasy novel where much of the setting and even the race of the characters in it might be invented or culturally inherited to something like historical fiction or hard science fiction. You can't invent historical facts or scientific ones.
     
  8. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I don't mean to derail the thread, but I strongly disagree with your first post, and I still strongly disagree with this one.

    First, many works of fantasy are very similar to historical fiction- again, going back to R. Scott Bakker. He combines elements of various ancient civilisations, a deep, and at times disturbing conversation on philosophy and religion, into a storyline loosely based on the First Crusade. Having studied the topics on which Mr. Bakker touches, and finding his presentation authentic and intriguing, I am aware of what must have been at the very least hundreds of hours of research poured into his work. Likewise, Jacquelyn Carey's Kushiel books to a respectable degree capture the culture of medieval France while still containing elements of fantasy.

    But of course those are particular examples, and not necessarily indicative of the genre on the whole, so let's look at what most would agree is the definitive work of modern fantasy. While the history and culture presented in Lord of the Rings may indeed be invented, in the sense that Middle Earth doesn't exist in our world, and neither do hobbits, I don't think we could convincingly claim it emerged in a vacuum or was produced solely by the traditions passed down to Mr. Tolkien. I think most would agree that in creating his world, Tolkien engaged in a truly staggering level of research, which shows in the depth and authenticity of Middle Earth. Even someone such as myself who doesn't particularly enjoy Lord of the Rings can be left in awe of the work put into it.

    I recently watched an interview with Patrick Rothfuss, in which he discussed the amount of research he put into The Name of the Wind, and what he said was repeated by Robert Jordan amongst others: Much of the research and work that goes into a fantasy novel is never directly seen by the reader. Entire cultures and nations need to be created- and almost without exception they are going to be based to some degree on the cultures, traditions and stories of our world. In other words simply in filling in details the reader may never see, the writer engages in a tremendous amount of research. As for me? I've spent literally hundreds of hours in research getting down the details for my fantasy novel.
     
  9. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I'm sorry, but such broad generalisations are inaccurate. As an avid reader of fantasy, I know most of my favourite authors spent years researching before they ever began to write. Some of them have commited their entire lives to the study of certain subjects: history, anthropology, archeology, pyschology, philosophy, theology, myth, fables, and legend. . . to name just a few that come into play.

    If you aim to be published, anything you write should be based on a solid working knowledge of whatever is involved. That either comes from experience, research, or copying other writers. There's a limit to what you can hope to experience, and as for copying. . . do I really need to say anything? The more you learn for yourself, the more your creativity will scintillate, until you finally ignite.

    Coughing out a few sparks now and then isn't enough, and you need knowledge to build a fire.

    Edit: lol, I got interrupted with a phone call while typing this up. Now I see that I'm kinda late. . Ah well.:p
     
  10. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Changing the topic back to research in general, I agree with everyone else. Good research is like a shield: It protects you from the weapons of ignorance and the vicious critics, but if you don't know how to use it you're as good as dead.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Frank Hebert studied the desert for 4 years before writing Dune. Although, Dune is Sci-fi, he did the research for the fantasy element the Fremen, a completely made up people.

    If in your fantasy novel you have a people that lives at the top of snow peak mountains, you might want to study Tibetan monks and Indians that live atop mountains.

    If the people in your fantasy novel live in the forrest or jungle, you should study people that live in the forrest or jungle. There is a tribe of people in South America that we recently found who live in the jungle. Interesting people.
     
  12. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ramirez? The Night Stalker? I don't think you could pay me enough to talk to that dude. He's not just "shady", he's scary as hell.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no 'usually'... i'd do as much as it takes to learn what i need to, so i can write a believable story...

    that could take hours, days, or even months/years of research work...
     

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