What Happens When Writers Don’t Research

After a long day of looking over the stories of others, I once again find myself frustrated.  This time, not because of their plot holes or horrid grammar, but because I realized that people are writing about things they have no idea about, but not bothering to educate themselves.

Today, one of the stories I looked at featured a plane crash which made no sense.  Another featured kids in the year 3,000 still writing with pencils (and to think that kindergarteners are using IPads in class).  Another had teenagers in the 90s using smartphones.  One from last year had a girl moving into a fully furnished dorm room, completed with a flat screen TV and mini fridge.

But of course, how could anyone forget the many, many college stories written by highschoolers about girls moving into their rooms and not knowing that their roommate was actually a hot guy/bully from the past, or thinking that college students have the same setup as high school classes.  I even reviewed a story once where college students moved from class to class with a school bell like in high school!  Imagine that.

I just don’t understand why people don’t take time to research these things.  Not doing research could completely ruin a book.  I had to completely trash my first novel, Runaways, after actually doing research.  Maybe people just don’t understand that although a story can be fiction, it still has to be accurate?

3 Comments

  1. I’m glad you posted this, because it is a good topic for discussion. Personally, I love doing research! My process – I’ll type away at the keyboard, then suddenly reach a point where I say to myself, “Well, is it really plausible that Fred would do that? Maybe he’d actually do this? Wait, he’s using invention X – was that even around in Fred’s time?”

    We live in an exciting time when researching has never been easier. No, I would not encourage anyone to completely rely on the Internet and google searches alone, but rather to turn to more trustworthy resources for particularly vexing questions. On the other hand, if you need to know a very basic, simple fact, i.e. what year something was invented, the Internet can help you, and you should probably compare the information you receive amongst several sources on the theory of, “a million Elvis fans can’t be wrong.”

    I’d never want to discourage anyone from following their passion for writing, but you say you have seen all these stories where people haven’t done their due diligence to find out basic things. Sometimes, when I hear the overwhelming stats of how many submissions that agents receive, I wonder if people that aren’t trying their hardest are gumming up the works for the rest of us.

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  2. I’m a bit paranoid about my research. I recently spent more time researching Civil War period firearms than I did to write the chapter of the book. Because I absolutely know, if published, there are readers out there who will let me know the inaccuracies.

    Interesting story about Edgar Rice Burroughs, writer of the Tarzan books among other things. His original draft of Tarzan had people fighting tigers and bears in Africa. Some editor set him straight and felt the story good enough to be published in their magazine.

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  3. I’m actually one of those people who don’t research, instead I spend the extra time creating and developing 100% fiction fantasy worlds – my first was one with carnivorous trees and a squirrel/bat/hybrid-thing that eats you unless you feed him cheesy bread. I left one of my characters to figure that out on his own! While over time my worlds have become more realistic, as to relate a bit more
    to the reader, the occational honey waterfall or poison-spitting plant does make an appearance to add a little “Plot Twist” flair to the whole tangled lives that belong to my characters.

    I did, inadvertantly, notice that if I am shooting for a more realistic setting, I will do research. I’m not completely aware of it when I do, but it just kinda…. do it.

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