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After exhaustive research, we’ve concluded our team is not good at exhaustive research.

19 November 2010

Writer nerd time! (Oh, who am I kidding — it’s almost always writer nerd time around here.) Today’s post is for everyone who’s watched a movie or read a novel dealing with something they’re familiar with (job, hobby, etc.), then thrown something at the screen (possibly the novel was the missile), saying “they got that completely wrong!”

Research. In my opinion, it’s integral to telling a good story. If you want your main character to be an expert in, say, stamp collecting, then you have to learn at least as much about the subject as your character is supposed to know (and probably more). It’s one of those things writers do where it doesn’t look like they’re working, but trust them, they’re totally working. I mean, the main character has seen every episode of Stargate: Atlantis, so I have to. (Note: my wife didn’t buy that one.)

So, writer pals, what’s your favorite place to go research? Library? Internet? In person? Combination of all three? Share some research stories.

Reader pals, what’s the story (book, TV show, or novel) you saw that obviously did its homework and got it dead-on right? Which ones got it horribly wrong?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 November 2010 0813

    I know my favorite research moment: My brother is a mechanic and muscle car enthusiast. I sent him a text message one day that just said “Would a body your size fit in the trunk of a 1967 Corvette without being dismembered?”

    As for the rest, it really depends on what I’m researching. I don’t play the guitar, but a character does, so my preference is to sit with a guitarist and observe his movements and ask questions. However, the Internet is useful for learning the recipes served in my character’s favorite coffee shop. It wouldn’t do for the baker to have flour on her apron if she were making something that didn’t have flour in it.

    As a reader/editor, it made me see red when, in a story I was editing, someone insinuated that the main character – a statuesque white woman – was the one Shakespeare wrote his sonnets to. As a scholar of British lit who studied with a recognized expert on Shakespeare, I wanted to go find that writer and smack them upside the head.

  2. Trace permalink
    19 November 2010 1014

    A lot of the stuff I write about comes from experience. The rest I try to find an SME. Internet if neither of the above.

    War movies usually get a bunch wrong, but one of the worst things is when they show soldiers running around a battlefield without helmets on. WTF? That’s not smart.

  3. 19 November 2010 1424

    Two words: Top Gun

  4. 19 November 2010 1426

    okay i need to expand on that, lmao. Top Gun was and is an American Icon that got things COMPLETELY wrong and yet still managed to work. As for where I do my research……The Kupfer Library of all sorts of Miscellaneous Shiz, brought to you by estate sales, eBay, Amazon, and fine book retailers everywhere, lmao

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