Research is for Chumps!

Okay, not really.  But I am at a point in my novel in which I have to do some real research.  My protagonist is going places that I have never been, and I do not have the money, nor can I get away from work, to make the trip myself.  Thank God for the internet!

I recently read some advice from an accomplished author who has hit similar snags in research.  He says to just call the cities or venues that you wish to research and just start asking questions.

Now, it may surprise some of you here that I am not the most outgoing person on the planet.  Sure, I can hold my own with a stranger at a party or event, but cold-calling folks to ask a bunch of odd questions about their city or venue feels odd to me.

I suppose that I could just make up whole bits of information, but I would like to honor my readers better than that.  If my character is going to Manhattan, then I would like to have him be in some real places in Manhattan.  Likewise, if he ends up moving to another city, I do not want to create a fictional city; I want a real city made up of real places and real landmarks.  I don’t want to get caught by someone who knows these places better than I do, having them say “such and such place did not exist in 1986, you big fat phony!”

This is a fictional biography, so I suppose I could make everything fictional, but I want it to resemble reality as much as possible.  I want it to read like a real biography as much as I can.

But, if I have never been to those places, should I even be writing about them?

Well, that’s where the research comes in.  When I was in grad school, I focused my studies on the Middle East.  I have never been to the Middle East, but I sure wrote enough about it to make me feel like an expert.  I would like to believe that I could apply the same methodology to writing fiction.

So what do you guys think?  Is it worth all the research to try to stay true to actual locations, or is it better to make everything fictional?

I feel lazy just asking.  I am not looking for shortcuts, but I am not sure how best to take this next step.



Filed under Deep Thoughts, man...

7 responses to “Research is for Chumps!

  1. MG

    Research definitely. Go to mapquest or google…get names of places and visit them online. It will be worth it to you and your readers imho

  2. Oh no, you are right. I am unsure. I figured that I should make the story as authentic as possible, but I didn’t really know if that was necessary or if I am just obsessing. Thanks for your input!

  3. Do the research. You can be forgiven for minor factual errors if you solely conduct your research online, but major errors will only show that you didn’t put in the amount of time in research that you should have.

    If you’re researching a city you’ve never visited, contact the visitors bureau and explain what it is you’re writing. They’ll be happy to help you out.

  4. I hate making cold calls too even though I’m pretty outgoing so I feel your pain. But this is important to you and it’s a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, right?

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