Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Researching For Your Genre

When I wrote my Regencies, I had an entire bookcase (not just a bookshelf, but a bookcase) dedicated to my time period. You'll find notebooks upon notebooks of notes and printouts on the time period. I have books on the Napoleonic Wars, on the English monarchy, on culture, villages, music, clothes -- you name it, I have it.

I enjoy the research. However, now that I'm no longer writing in that time period, I haven't been making much use of that particular bookcase.

I tried my hand at writing a contemporary once, thinking it'll be a breeze because I won't have to do so much research. Boy was I wrong! I can honestly say without a doubt that writing a contemporary is harder than writing a historical because of the research involved.

You're looking at a sub-genre where things are more easily recognized by readers. Don't know a thing about yachts? You better do more than just the usual book and internet search. You need to take a trip to see one in person and talk to some people who specialize in it because you bet some reader will read your book and KNOW that you didn't do your research correctly.

What I find most difficult about researching 21st century things is that there isn't much written about it in books and on the internet. Not like there is when dealing with historical facts. Information isn't readily available because it's automatically assumed that people are already familiar with the subject, and if not, then they can have easy access to see it in person and ask questions.

My hats off to contemporary writers!

Hate research? Then I suggest trying your hand at writing fantasy. Sure, there is some world-building involved, but EVERYTHING can be made up. Give it a shot! You might be surprised at how much fun it is to really and truly make everything up.

Whatever your take on research, we can agree that researching is an important part of writing.

Happy researching!


Anonymous said...

My personal favorite - making up the swear words. Especially if you're writing about some form of were-canine, which removes "bitch" as a contender. Ever notice how some of the nastiest words in the English language pertain to women? We need to change that. It starts with us writers, ladies!


Savanna Kougar said...

Mai, one reason I never wrote a full historical romance is because all the ones I read back in the heydey were done so well, I didn't want to look like I was copying their research efforts.
However, I use my love of history and what research I've done, and do, to help me write my fantasy romance novels.
But, what's also true is that I have a wonderful time, if hair-pulling at times, making up all my worlds. Which I've always done anyway, by daydreaming, or by speculating on what if?

Pat, you are so right. Which is why I go with heroine/hero. Not the other way around. And my heroines are always powerful in their own right, regardless.
That's one example. I try to remain aware, and make changes wherever I can.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Interesting thing about making things up...critique partners over the years have warned me against having too many new words---maybe one or two per chapter--or readers will get confused.
What do you all think?

Terry Odell said...

I used to read a lot of Star Trek novels -- it used to bug me when they'd make up names for all these exotic species based on our own scientific classification system. I suppose it was easier for readers to get a 'catlike' visual but it never made sense to me.

I could never handle the research for an historical. Too much like homework in history class (which I never liked).

As for me, I'm still trying to deal with my failed jet engine scenario.

Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, in general, I think that's good advice. However, it really comes down to the type of story you're penning.
For example, when I wrote Tangerine Carnal Dreams, the world has little or nothing to do with Earth. Thus, I made up all sorts of names for the many other races, and for the characters.
While I haven't gotten any rave reviews that I know about, the story has gotten Good ratings at Fictionwise.
And since it would be classified sci fi as one subgenre of the story, generally those readers would have an expectation of new words.
I think, it partly comes down to the expectation of the reader. Now if you write a clever enough story where readers can just fall into the world, that could work.

Savanna Kougar said...

Terry, why is jet-engine scene failing?

Terry Odell said...

Savannah, I need more information so I can write it realistically. I've got a few contacts I'm hoping will give me a play by play so I can torment my hero.