Only one more day to enter the contest to win the grand prize of a first chapter critique by Ms. Shreditor! See my Monday’s post for all the details!
If you are a contemporary fiction writer like I am, you might think that you don’t have to do any research because hey, it's fiction, right? But even fiction needs realism and depth and writers of any genre have to do research. Because savvy writers know that there isn't anything that will turn your readers off faster than if they find something in your work that doesn’t ring true to them.
You see, you are setting up a trust with your readers that your story is believable and that you know what you are talking about. There may be some instances where the reader will have to stretch their imaginations a bit, but overall, the author is expected to deliver a somewhat realistic story that readers can get lost in because they see themselves there. If you don’t, your reader will be taken out of the story and might not trust you to give them the sort of story experience they are looking for.
For example, I once read a story set in Provo, Utah, where the character stepped out of a building and immediately hailed a taxi. Now, if you’ve ever been to Provo, Utah, you know that there is no chance of immediately hailing a taxi. Taxis are not easily found in Provo. And as soon as I read that sentence I knew the author hadn’t done detailed research.
Of course, it doesn’t immediately turn your readers off to find something wrong, but it can be distracting to have details included that you know aren’t right. (There are different circumstances where an author could have tried to do research, but given wrong information. For example, I went to England and carefully researched the parish and surrounding settings for my novel Time Will Tell, but had an English reader tell me it was wrong. And I read a book set in Canada that had many law enforcement things completely wrong, but the author had been told by a Canadian that everything was okay. So, sometimes, an author can try to do research and be given wrong information.)
But I have to say I have learned so many great things while researching my books. It’s like a little mini-education being an author. For instance, I’ve learned a lot about laws in different states, pipelines and the countries who have them. I’ve learned about the intelligence agencies like the Canadian CSIS and French DGSE, I’ve learned about IEDs in Iraq, and more than I ever wanted to know about cargo ships and how shipping lanes run in our world. It’s been an exciting ride and I know my readers have appreciated the tiny details that can really make a story riveting and give that extra oomph to the setting. The attention to research and details and “getting it right” builds long-term trust that is essential to any writer who wants to have a career and not be a one-story wonder
So, be sure to do your research. Make sure you have settings that are realistic and events that ring true to your readers. Use the details to create a rich depth to your novel. Help your readers experience your story as if they were there and you’ll build loyal fanbase who will be anxiously awaiting the release date of your next novel.