1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Skipping research is it ripping off the reader?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by peachalulu, Jul 27, 2012.

    One of my character's runs a corporation , I've done some research - I'm just not absolutely
    confident about writing a scene in which business talk is involved.

    One good thing though is that the story is angled away from the business meetings.
    He doesn't like his job ( which is part of the plot ) , nor does he talk much about it,
    just in a generalized way about the product.

    I'm wondering if I should keep researching - and have more details
    for more believability. Or if readers don't mind a certain vagueness.
    It's not a 'beach book' per say where those writers seem to include
    everything - glitzy boardroom arguments , and the jet-setter lifestyle.
    Not genre.

    Just wanted to know what you guys thought. If you ever felt an author
    was missing it , or didn't delve enough into a subject or seemed to
    have skipped there research.
     
  2. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    When it comes to my religion, a lot of times it feels like the research team skimmed a bit about our beliefs practices and then decided they knew enough to create a convincing atmosphere based around our religion. I do feel a bit ripped off if that happens. But would people of other religions notice? Few probably would.

    I think research is important but sometimes being legalistic in everything just hurts the story. SOME areas, I feel can be subject to some dramatic license. I feel believability should be a goal but if some things are brushed over, I am not convinced it is ALWAYS a bad idea. Again, I suppose, like anything, it's a case by case thing. Some things you should strive to get exactly rights and others you can probably get away from a more rough adaption.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless you're getting into details about that particular business, I don't think you need to worry too much about the 'lingo'. There are a few 'overall' phrases, but every industry and most individual companies have their own language.
     
  4. Quinn T. Senchel
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    Quinn T. Senchel Member

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    Sometimes I feel ripped off because the author got me so interested in the story that I wanted to learn more about part of the subject matter, but it was brushed over. For the most part though I don't mind. Especially when it comes to business lingo.
     
  5. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    If your going to be talking about a magazine for example as the product his company produces, i would skip the research, most if not all people would be familiar with the general editing process, and you can go over it in passing. If your going to talk about a new quantum entanglement teleportation system, i can almost guarantee i would want more explanation. If i have chosen a book where the product is a main plot point for example in "Digital Fortress" by Dan Brown, the TRANSLTR plays a central role in the plot. You need to explain in reasonable detail what, where, how, why of the TRANSLTR. Particularly, for me the why and how.

    I get rather frustrated in novels where they talk about an advanced concept in passing and expect me to understand its intricacies when it later becomes an integral part of their plot. An example would be a company figuring out how to manipulate the "higgs boson", but never telling me what the higgs boson does or why its even important to the plot. The author may be a physicist, i'm not. I didn't pick up his book to have to go away and wade through scientific journals on the higgs boson or dicey news articles that don't quite understand it and call it the "god particle".
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your question is a bit vague, Peach -- you just indicate that your character "runs a corporation." Much of the research as far as getting the details right and therefore believable depends on what kind of corporation it is. As far as general 'business lingo,' it wouldn't necessarily come up in a meeting -- most meetings would focus on some particular problem -- i.e. our factory can't get the raw material zee to make our widget in time for us to have it in stores by the Christmas season. How do we fix this? Of course, there would also, somewhere in the business, occur accounting or stock-related types of discussions, but these wouldn't necessarily have to be shown in your novel if the focus is not so much involved with the corporation, but more on the character's dissatisfaction with running it.

    I think you need to do your research as far as getting the concerns right as far as the particular corporation's industry. The question is not all that different from the thread discussing how much research one needed to do as far as a geographic setting for a story -- the idea and the answer are the same: as much as possible to make it believable, especially if there are a fair number of people who might have some familiarity with the business.

    I have frequently felt that an author did not do sufficient research, and it really hurts the novel experience for me. If a book is about something with which I happen to be familiar, and it rings false, I lose faith in the author and the story. It's not so different from having unbelievable dialogue or a ridiculous premise or plot twist that is not sufficiently explained or justified. If I exclaim or think, "who *does* that?" the author has lost me. Of course, I tend to be a tough critic.
     
  7. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    >for example in "Digital Fortress" by Dan Brown, the TRANSLTR plays a central role

    Don't get me started on Dan Brown's "research." I don't believe his NSA security procedures, I don't believer TRANSLTR would have been designed to melt down if it thought too hard, and did you notice that the only way to decrypt the algorithm was to use the algorithm you were looking for (like hiding the key to the safe inside the safe)? Enough. I'll crawl back into my hole now.
     
  8. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    I agree, albeit an outlandish example, it contained sufficiently plausible research, accurate or not that served its purpose of pushing the plot forward. I think there's a fine line between too much real world fact and not enough literary freedom. A writer that can embellish and exaggerate the truth but still keep the ideas presented plausible in both the real world and the fictional world, for me makes the perfect book. I'm not saying Digital Fortress was a perfect book, and i did find myself pointing out the obvious holes as i went through, but i still enjoyed it regardless, perhaps because i realised most wouldn't spot the holes, or perhaps because it was cleverly constructed for its audience, conspiracy nuts :D.
     
  9. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    If you're going to feature business discussions, the terms had ought to make sense. It is not exotic information, and as pointed out above, the misuse of key concepts or jargon only undermine the credibility of the story, and therefore the suspension of disbelief.

    If they're at a bar talking about business, that's one thing -- general terms are fine, almost always. But if they are in a meeting, especially when there's paperwork out, any terms used in the context of business should really be accurate.

    I'm a small business manager by profession. If you have any questions about terms used in business, ask. If I can help, I will.
     
  10. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    I agree with Thumpa here...you don't want to refer to a "problem with a product" if you're really referring to "product liability", but my guess is that unless you have a very specific product or corporate issue, you have probably watched enough board room drama to have a fairly solid understanding of what register to use in business. Once you've written those scenes, share them with a business person (Hey Thumpa just volunteered :) ) and see if they have suggestions. You don't have to have an MBA to write a believable business scene, but remember, we, the readers, have also seen lots of boardroom drama, so we have some expectations.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In the end, research is really about your own credibility. You said the character runs a corporation. In what sense? Chairman of the Board pulling strings? CEO? COO? A middle management guy who happens to be crucial to what the corporation does? What does the corporation do? Since you mention a product, do you have in mind what kind of product? You don't have to parade your research in front of the reader, but you need to know it so that what you do show the reader is credible.

    Good luck.
     
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  12. MVP
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    I don't heavily research anything until the first draft is done. Its a waste of your time if you eventually cut what you researched so heavily. Make up some crap to get your story out, and highlight said crap so you know that it needs special attention during rewrite. If you keep it, then research it. If you cut it, then no time/ effort lost.
     
  13. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree with this response. Nothing you write is "wasted," even if you eventually edit it out. It forms the basis for the rest of what you write and leave in. If you go down an incorrect road at the beginning, you're going to end up far afield from where you need to be, if something that you write is based on some action that wouldn't happen. So doing research and having knowledge is never a waste. It can and will always inform what you write and think in the future.

     
  14. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The character owns the company , it's been passed down to him through generations,
    having been started by a great , great grandfather. He is also the C.E.O.
    There are board members, and stock holders but he can override their decisions because he has controlling interests.
    Also , because their is a medical element involved the government has some say in how things are run, and in the
    end he has to answer to them if his product fails.
     
  15. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Is the story taking place in contemporary times? Where is the company located? What, exactly, does the company manufacture -- pharmaceuticals? Medical devices? Medical equipment? What kind of medical equipment? Is there a heavy R&D component? Is the manufacture difficult?

    I note you are from Canada and occasionally Australia. I'm not certain how different things are there, so maybe there is a heavier government involvement with a healthcare-related company than in the United States. But in the U.S., the company is not "answerable" directly to the government if the product "fails." I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "fails" either -- do you mean that the product is itself, ultimately completely ineffective for it's intended purpose? Do you mean that it causes a separate harm? Do you mean it is merely a market failure? The company could be "answerable" if there is a manufacturing difficulty and they are under a government contract, for example, to provide the product for the military or something. Of course, the product needs F.D.A. approval to be sold in the U.S. if it's some sort of drug or device, but that's before the product goes to market.

    I'm also a bit unclear of the size of the company. You state that the character has at least 51% of the outstanding shares of stock. If it is a very large company, i.e. like a Merck, Pfizer, Baxter, Genentech type of global corporation, it doesn't necessarily matter if your character has that much stock, because if he is that bad and could cause that much harm to the company, there is a risk of a shareholder's derivative suit to get him out. Although even that scenario is unlikely, because if we were talking about a company that large, there someone so completely uninterested in the company isn't likely to become the CEO -- the company itself cannot be given to/willed to the character - only the shares of stock.

    So I assume you're talking about a small company, where the character knows all of the members of the Board and the other shareholders very well. If he's incompetent or uninterested, the company is still subject to a shareholder's derivative suit. In fact, this could be even more likely, if the Board members and other shareholders are so intimately involved and knowledgable about the running of the company.

    I think what you are really envisioning for your character's company is not a publicly-traded company, but a privately held one, which would not have stockholders and probably not a Board of Directors. Of course, if the company is so successful as to have large government contracts and world wide sales, it would be a curiosity if it were not publicly traded, given expenses it might incur to manufacture and market their product on a global scale. If it's a small company, even a very successful one, it might remain private.

    There's a limit to your character's true power within the corporation if it is publicly traded. A lot of what you want to do is dependent on what the company sells and how large it is, and on the structure of the company itself. All of this needs to be worked out if corporate-induced angst is a major part of your story and your character. You're looking at a need to master not just "business" lingo, but industry lingo. You'd probably be better off keeping the company small and not overly subject to government regulation, especially by multiple nations, if the focus is not on the business your character is in.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, even a privately held company can have multiple shareholders, and it would have a board if it were in the form of a coporation.

    I would also note that just because a company is subject to government regulation does not mean that the government "has a say in how things are run." Governmental regulation in this type of situation is usually more focused on outcomes than processes.

    All that said, I'm not convinced that the OP really has a firm sense on what she is trying to portray. Additional research would probably help avoid some pitfalls.
     
  17. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ed - you are correct. Thank you for correcting my misstatement. A private corporation could have a BOD and shareholders. Just because they aren't publicly traded doesn't mean they don't exist. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm losing my mind after being in the sun all day with my kids at a picnic.

    I believe you were addressing the OP's comment about government "having a say." I agree with you. I did want to make clear that when I suggested having a business in an industry not overly subject to government regulation, I was specifically thinking of avoiding a field such as pharma only because business decisions are impacted significantly by multiple government agencies, which would further increase the jargon and the issues that the character would have to deal with, making the OP's job all that much harder. I was thinking it would be easier if his grandfather invented some sort of "miracle mop" or some cleaner or some entertainment type object that was very successful, but not regulated (beyond general consumer safety type issues) extensively by the government.
     
  18. sonja.arbogast
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    sonja.arbogast New Member

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    Always do your research. Even if you don't use everything you learned, it's still in the back of your head, which shapes the rest of the work and lends credibility to your work. Writing is work, and research makes up the bulk of that work.
     
  19. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Yeah, if we're talking about a company owner in Canada or Australia, I'm certainly unqualified to give much advice or information on procedurals outside of generic information such as help with jargon and such, or perhaps technical operations stuff.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I definitely agree. Waiting to do research can mean tossing and rewriting huge parts of a story - possibly negating the whole premise. And in particular after reading the OP's description of the company and the character's role in it. Decide just exactly what it is the company manufactures - then you have an idea of what kinds of government oversight will be involved. Will also have to decide whether it's publicly or privately held and then research the business structure which will best fit the situation the OP wants the MC to find himself in.

    ETA: I would take a run to the local college and talk to someone in their Business Education area, and/or check out/purchase the latest edition of the recommended text for the basic Business Law courses. That should give you more than enough information for a good start, and let you know where you need to do further research.
     
  21. Darkranger85
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    Darkranger85 Member

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    I'm fairly sure George Lucas didn't have a lot of experience running a galactic Sith empire or an interstellar rebellion. I certainly have no idea how to run a network of colonies half way across the galaxy.

    I know that many people say "Write what you know", but thats only true to an extend. If we only included elements in a story that we were pros at, there would be a lot less books lol.

    Anyway, thats just my two cents. :)
     
  22. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Darkranger - that wasn't the question. The OP is dealing with a novel that is more or less set in the "real world." She's dealing with real entities, legal structures, and people. The Star Wars series did not deal with most of those (well, people, yes, but also a lot of other imagined beings.) No one reading those books or watching those movies can say, "Hey - that's not how the Sith Empire works," or "That's not how you run intergalactic colonies -- you haven't shown how you deal with X, Y, and Z, which are always problematic." In the OP's world, there will be people familiar with whatever type of business she's got the character involved in. There will be people who say, "A shareholder's meeting wouldn't be run that way," or "A CEO would never say that," or "If the CEO did that, the Board would boot him," or "They'd be sued if that happened -- why haven't they been sued?" or a multitude of other complaints stemming from the story ringing false due to incorrect details.

    So, you can partially disregard the advice to "write what you know" when you're creating a fantasy world. But if you're writing about the real world, you can't disregard the advice AND pass on researching what is reasonable to happen in your setting.
     
  23. Darkranger85
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    Touche, I concede the point. :)
     
  24. MVP
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    I didn't say anything written was wasted. I also didn't say I don't research. I just don't waste my time researching things before my first draft is done. If I don't know something, I put in a placeholder, so I can keep my draft going. During my rewrite I revisit those placeholders, and then do my research. I know much more about my story in the 2nd draft then I do in the RD, I know what and how much research I need to enrich my story, if its something that I'm not cutting. If I researched every dog gone thing in my story before I ever sat down to write, I'd never write anything, and I'd have a folder of notes that I'd probably never use. Researching is not writing, its researching.

    Going down an incorrect road??? Who is to say what the right path is, when you are writing a 100,000+ word work?? Everyone has their own way of doing this. The only right road, is the individual road that works for each writer.
     
  25. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Absolutely agree. Researching the subject gives you insight and confidence to write with authority. How else are you going to have your readers believing in your characters, plot, setting etc.?
     

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