Is in-depth research necessary when writing?

Most books written require some form of research. This can be as extensive as knowing a whole time period (such as historical books set in Victorian times, for example), to the tiniest detail that means everything to the plot, or just gives the story a little extra polish.

In my case, a little bit of research is required. But I suppose the question linked to this is: does obedience to fact and the research restrict creative freedom? Is it even necessary?

Using the example of crime novels, the writer is expected to have a very strong knowledge of police procedure among many other legal procedures. In this case (pun not intended), many of the details that the writer finds out when researching may play a key role in the plot, because the stories are mostly based around investigative procedures. If anything, research in this scenario makes it more believable.

On the other hand, a genre such as fantasy may be seen as requiring minimal research and/or knowledge. With books in this genre being based on imaginative and creative plots, fantasy novels tend to not be confined to being 100% accurate when researching.

But back to the original question, I guess it all comes down to credibility. As well as characters, a believable setting or environment also helps when it comes to a reader imagining the writer’s story. Therefore, it could be said that only a minimalistic amount of research is needed for some genres.

What do you think? Are you a writer that strives to be factually correct, or are you a writer that finds other methods of being accurate when writing? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!

Liam

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5 thoughts on “Is in-depth research necessary when writing?

  1. What are you writing? And yes, it IS necessary to get it right. If you think fantasy doesn’t need much research, you’d better not try it. Most fantasy is based on our world in one form or another. If you use horses, for example, they have to be horses, not furry machines that can run all night. Swords? There are things you can’t do with swords. I should know – I joined the SCA to learn what not to do in my heroic tantasy tales. Societies? You can’t have a mediaeval society without religion, because that’s how they functioned. You can’t have a ship zooming over the sea in no time. I recommend an article by Poul Anderson, “Of Thud And Blunder” – last time I looked it was on the SFWA web site, but google it.

    Really, research has never been so painless as since the Internet came along. You can find what you want like magic and there are experts in every subject ready to help.

    That said, if you have a story burning you from inside, write it now. Just don’t submit it till you know you have it right. But once you decide on the sort of stuff you want to write, it’s a good idea just to buy or borrow books on that subject and read them, whether you’re working on that topic or not at the time. You’ll get ideas and you’ll absorb the subject and be more comfortable with it next time you get an idea.

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  2. I agree with Sue about Fantasy novels requiring quite a bit of research, albeit a sort that isn’t as obvious as investigative procedure but as in depth nonetheless.

    Very interesting blog post. I don’t think you intended to pit crime against fantasy. So maybe the question isn’t some genres compared to others, but how much of the plot you can fudge before things begin to sound fake.

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    • I see! But of course, if the genre/story requires detailed knowledge, then research is needed.

      I was hoping to cover wider genres as well – whoops! I was going to say about research when writing romance. Surely only experience of love is needed to write that genre?

      That is true, and a good point! Research should make the story believable. In my opinion, too much research may make it believable, but it could drift away from it being an exciting fiction book (more like a non-fiction book). But on the other hand, too little, and creative freedom (as fun to read as it is) makes the reader question the reliability of the story.

      Thanks for commenting – great points! 😀 I’m glad you liked my post! Be sure to follow if you like! 🙂

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