Writing a novel isn’t just about the writing part. A lot of research goes into writing a good book – and many writers who are just starting out their writing journey don’t realize just how much research it takes. Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain any facts: Every good fiction piece starts with real-life research.
Here’s how to approach researching for fiction in the right way. Soon, you will learn how to write a novel.
Why Fiction Needs to Be Researched
It’s a common misconception that fiction doesn’t require any research on the writer’s part. But writers should remember that just because the plot and characters might be fiction, this doesn’t mean that everything else around your story is as well. Things like setting, place, what songs were on the charts in that year: These things are all little details in your story that can take a little bit of research to get right – and really tick readers off when you get them wrong.
Always ask yourself which time your story is currently set in. The future? The sixties? Five years from now? Research the time that you intend to set your story in – and this includes looking up little simple details like trends, fashion and songs that the reader might never even see mentioned in the manuscript.
If you reference anything from that time, make sure that it’s appropriate for the time and fits in the right place for the story. Anywhere that you might not be sure about the time, get in touch with a local university or expert and ask.
Writers can also take it one step further and find a living, breathing human source who can tell them more – this is particularly useful if you’re working with timelines that take place a few decades ago where you have no experience of it yourself.
Always research the town and place where you set your story. Your goal is to write it so well that someone who has lived there for twenty years can read your story and be convinced that you’ve seen the area or you’re a local yourself. Research through local resources and tourist websites, but don’t forget just how useful Google Maps and Street View can be for getting to know a place.
Researching Specific Locations
If you’re mentioning a specific building or place in your story that exists in real life, make sure that you’re basing your description on some real resources. Many places offer an online tour that will allow you to see the location for yourself, and where this is not possible, you can usually find photographs of most places – or if you have the budget and the time, go there yourself!
Again, as a writer you have to describe any actual real-life places well enough to ensure that someone who actually knows the place will be convinced that you were there.
Little details always make a big difference. Where you make use of any little real-life details (X’s Cafe was just down the road from…), double-check these little details to make sure that you aren’t getting anything wrong.
What’s the difference between a good story and a bad one? Often that difference is made by good versus average research.
Sometimes the research for a story can take months; other times it might even take years. But it will always be time well spent when these elements ensure a fuller, better and more accurate story with a great amount of attention to detail.
Always check facts: Don’t just state something without being sure – and where you know that you did, check these facts again later. Readers can spot where writers weren’t thorough, and a lack of fact-checking can drag down an otherwise great story.