1. JamesB
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    JamesB Member

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    When to research?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by JamesB, Jun 1, 2013.

    How do you know when you need to do more research for your writing?

    I'm writing a novel where the Anti-Hero is a politician who will be running for President. It's a horror novel and politics is really only his cover. How much research into politics should I do?

    As I'm writing, I know I need to research the mechanics of a boat hoist if my character is using one; at least enough info just to operate it anyway. I'm not sure I know enough in certain subject matter to even recognize that I need to learn more. I may think I know enough, but maybe I don't.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    You to need to research as much as your character needs to know
     
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  3. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    If you are going to write it while the character is actually running for office, then you'll need to know about how a campaign for president works--which is immensely complected. You'll also need to know how the mind of a politician works. 'Course you can skim over all that and any reader familiar with politics will immediately be put off by that and most likely put down the novel. Political and judiciary novels are big business and therefore the readership is well versed in the way things in those worlds are. And the one thing that a good horror writer is expected to do well is build a believable world of normalcy so that when things start to move into the abnormal the over all horror effect is greater than one might expect otherwise.
     
  4. huntsman40
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    huntsman40 Active Member

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    This is a question I don't think anyone can really answer for you. You are writing a horror novel and so how much politics are you actually planning your anti-hero to be involved in? It's up to you how in-depth you go with it, as look at Damien Thorne from Omen, he was in politics but you didn't see really anything majorly political in that. What I'm really saying is that you have to work it out yourself based on what you write. If you write about him doing something in senate, or something on the campaign trail then that’s what you need to research. It’s the same as if you didn’t know what a Glock 17 is; you look it up, but you don't read about every gun ever made.

    Hey, at least you are doing the research. I read a book last week where the main character has a daughter who is fourteen, and is supposedly tracking the movement and size changes of dark matter for a class project.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you get to some part you're writing and realize you don't know enough about the subject...

    as much as it takes to make what you're writing be believable... you're asking 'how long should a piece of string be' and seem to be assuming there's some magical formula for determining the answer... there isn't...

    then err on the side of caution...

    see above...
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Any time I'm dealing with something I don't already know a lot about (education, experience, whatever), I tend to do a lot of research. Much more than necessary, some would say, but once I decide that X is going to happen, I want to know as many of the "what if's" surrounding that. So I get the basics, then start with the "Okay, I think the MC can then do this." - and I verify that he can - or can't. Sometimes I'll go through several of these sessions before I discover what's possible, and which of those possibles I'm going with. But then again, I love doing research!
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with Shadow on this. I research however much I need to know in order to be comfortable enough with the subject matter to write about it. But understand that you need to guard against the impulse (which can be quite strong) to put all of your research material into the story. Chances are, the reader will only need to know a small fraction of what you need to know to write it.
     
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  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I fell for that old chestnut early on - did loads of research, way too much then felt the need to turn my fiction into a history book but I loved researching so much I decided it was going to be a textbook for school, then after a month or so remembered what I was writing and took half of the history lesson back out again. Wise words Ed!
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks. My current project is a historical, and I had recently hit the wall in one chapter. It just wasn't coming together the way I wanted it to, and I couldn't make some basic decisions about plot points (very unlike me). So, I grabbed myself by the scruff of the neck and forced myself to go back and research the heck out of a single historical incident that is the climax of the chapter. Well, of course, it wasn't just about the incident itself, it was about the 20 years that preceded it. I took scores of pages of notes (two sections in a 5 subject notebook). Very little of that will actually make it into my story, but knowing all of it helped me resolve several problems. I have now scrapped the incomplete chapter and started over. Charge!!
     
  10. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I agree with the other comments. If you don't know it research it. That's how you know when you need to research something. Don't guess at the mechanics of something go find out how it actually works! :)
     

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