Do Your Research

My students had research papers due this week. We'd spent five weeks reading the Walter Dean Myers book Fallen Angels and researching and learning about the Vietnam War. We always do the Vietnam War in October to November because it's a war we so rarely get to it in social studies and it's such an important part of our national history and identity. Anyway, we spent two weeks on the who research process. It's always a struggle.There are always a couple of kids who think because they found the information and copied it it's theirs. Plagiarism is an uphill battle in the classroom. I think we got the point across.

As writers, you'd think that all you do is just make stuff up. Right? Well, kind of. We do make up a lot of stuff. And we have to keep all that made up stuff straight. I actually have a notebook in which I write down definitions and descriptions of the things I've created in my worlds. However, there is a lot of research that needs to happen. We don't know everything. No one can. So, we have to research. Just recently, I decided to drop one of my characters into a world that's very close to the ancient Mayans. I know nothing about the Mayans other than I learned watching El Dorado with Miguel and Tulio. Which, I discovered after doing some research was pretty well researched itself. Who knew!

I've written one historical romance novel and one modern paranormal romance with a lot of fantasy. also have a fantasy trilogy under my belt. The trilogy, despite being the longest and most complicated, was by far the easiest to write. The modern paranormal was next. I had to keep checking out google maps to make sure the streets I was referring to were actually where I thought they were. However, that's modern. So, it was pretty simple.

The historical romance, though...yikes! I don't know much about the regency era in England. Not my favorite period romances even though I wrote one. I know. I know. Why write a regency romance when you don't like the time period--that's the time period in which the poetic inspiration of the story was set. I had to turn to research. Lots of research. I know more about the regency period than I ever wanted to. I would stumble across something I needed to know and have to stop the story and dive into research. It made the story stumble and limp along at times, but overall I think it made for a better story.

So, even though you're a writer and get paid (not all that much, but still...) to make things up, you need to keep the story grounded in reality. It might slow down the writing process, but it makes for a better story. I like to research as I go along, so I'm not tempted to shove in too much and really bog down the flow. Speaking of which, I'd better get back to my Maya.


  1. I try to do research, minimal or otherwise, with all of my stories. I agree with your statement that even though we make things up, what we make up should have a nugget of truth/reality behind it. I do know the most research I did for a novel involved some Google, the public library and pointed questions to co-workers & blog readers (yeah, it was that kind of novel).



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