Why Research is Important: A Study in Contrasts

Image of a stack of books with Do Your Research Part One

I’m a big fan of research. I mean, I even got a degree in it.

Thus, it really drives me crazy when I’m reading a book and it’s clear that there was little to no research was done.

Here is a contrast of what I mean:

women’s fiction book I read last week featured the hero and heroine in a tiny town in Michigan. The tiny town was located next to a larger city that does exist. The author took great pains to bring life to the general area by including real stores, places of interest, and things to do while weaving in her own things. The whole set-up was believable. I could buy her fake town existed. (I did some digging and the author went to a local college in Michigan so she presumably knows the area well.)

In contrast, the first book I started in a cozy mystery featured a small town next to the same larger city mentioned above. The author included one local flavor item and the rest was made up. The lack of real local flavor, and the glossing over of her own world, really burned me on the book. I did a do not finish (DNF) about 25% of the way through and promptly returned it to the library.

Now I know some may think that I’m being a bit obnoxious about this, but I hold firm in my stance. I know this area well as Mr. Scarlet and I have a cabin here and live there part-time. One of my books is placed in a small village near the same larger city and while the village will have its own flavor, the area flavor will be real and most importantly, believable.

Even fantasy stories, which are wholly (mostly) made up, have their own woes. I read a review of Travis Baldree’s Legends and Lattes recently where the reviewer noted that how could Viv open a coffee house with an obvious espresso machine when electricity did not exist in this world was one of the complaints. Readers notice these inconsistencies. It’s fine to make up your own world, just think about how it what you’re introducing can work.

The lack of research, or forethought into your story’s mechanics, is lazy writing. It also creates the lack of flavor and reality into your world making your story difficult to enjoy.

Do you want to be a lazy writer?

Next week, I talk about how to do research for your story.

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