Research, how I loath thee

research (Photo credit: suttonhoo)

Okay, so that isn’t completely true.  I love to research – certain things.  For example, new tech like Samsung Gear (hopefully it works like advertised!!!) or Nanotechnology, but then I’m a tech geek.  I also enjoy researching science principles like multiple realities, faster than light travel.

But, to be honest, I hate to research the mundane stuff.  Take New York City for example.  I haven’t been there, I want to go if only to walk down Broadway and see a show (Cats seems interesting, Wicked could be fun too).  I’ve been on the outskirts of it, but never in the city itself.  I realize that as a world traveler as I am, this may seem like a strange statement to make, but it’s true.  Honest.

Since I haven’t been there, and I’m about to have several scenes in this city, I have to do my research.  The problem is that I now have to stop writing Chapter 7 so I can do the damn research.

hate that!  Despise, loath it!  I want to write, not research, take notes, jot down ideas.  It’s slow slogging through the World Wide Web looking for information on subway systems, city blocks, ways to and from the UN… blah blah blah.

worldmap, world map, maps of world
worldmap, world map, maps of world (Photo credit: nsikander28)

Sad as it may be, however, I have no choice.  As writers, we have options in relation to our scenes and they fall into three categories:

1.  A future place

2.  A make believe place

3.  A real place

Okay, so those are broad (very broad), but I’ve yet to find a need to add more to those categories.  Let me explain how each one works in terms of writing from my limited perspective.

With the first one, if you’re writing a story in the future you’re fine because you can make it be however you want and if it is a city in the future of Earth even better because more than likely it’ll follow a similar pattern to what is today but you can make up your stores and buildings as you wish.

When I first started writing, I tried my hand with fantasy.  I love the story I created, called it The Golden Crown, and it’s still my pet project when I’m tapped out from my serious writing work to play with into trying to get it out on paper.  Trying to tease this story into reality has created a heavy amount of respect for fantasy writer‘s because I think of all the genre’s Fantasy and Science Fiction have to be the hardest in that order.  Real world fiction is easy because it obeys the rules of the world as we know it, fantasy and science fiction do not, on average, have to.  Throw in magic or advance science and it’s a new ball game.

The benefit of a fantasy or make-believe place is that you can create it however you want, put the stable to the right, a tavern on the left, open or closed, warehouse, a river through it.  Whatever floats your boat, but it doesn’t stop there because you have to make the whole damn planet.  Trust me, I know.  I was lulled into thinking I can do this by David Eddings who said that he created his world for the Belgariad and Mallorean Series on a damn napkin.  How nice for him, but I needed two poster boards.

Anyway –

The third category is almost as much of a pain as the second category in that you have to stay real to the city you’re in.  You have some leeway with the big cities because you can throw a bookstore in an alley and most will say:  “Sure, I can see that.”  In Paris, that’s popular apparently so I went with that for Memory Lane.  For out-of-the-way spots for mansions and stuff, you pick a city then look at the map and find an empty enough area that a building could feasibly be and then create a building as you want in your head.  As long as the location fits with the type of bad guy your Assassin was sent to kill, you’re fine.

However, if you’re hunting and chasing the bad guys through the streets of New York City, you have to know the streets of New York City.  Which, like, sucks, because you have to do that research.  I’ve talked about this before in that I can’t do all my research before I start writing for two reasons.

1.  I get impatient and want to start writing.  Usually what happens is that I find something rather interesting and it sparks an idea that gets me writing and away I go….

2.  I follow where the research takes me as according to what interests me.  This usually ends me up in someplace I don’t want to be.  One time I was researching the scope of Homeland Security which led me to Cyber Security that took me to Server Development then somehow I got to NASA.  I’m still not sure how that happened, but I’m not curious enough to trace my steps backwards.  It may have something to do with the computers in the Hubble Telescope, but that’s a guess at best.

So I stop writing, to research, so that I can go back to writing until I have to stop when I figure out what my next city will be in.  In the meantime I also have to find the perfect place to interrogate their prey.  All the while I have to decide how tough the guy is going to be to interrogation, will it be easy to get him to talk or should I get creative?  Is it too soon to get creative?

Which reminds me, that’s another thing to research, interrogation tactics!

… Okay, I have to ask:

What is the oddest topic you’ve had to research for writing?

Ah, one more question, what research methodology works best for you as a writer?  Do you keep notes and files upon files, or you do you find the one fact you need?  Share!


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