Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Little Research

Research isn’t always good thing. I’ve seen some authors talking about all the research they did when they wrote their books. You open up the book and there it all is. One author was talking about visiting a farm and talking to the owner about all the stuff he did in a day. She rattled off a list of stuff he told her. In the book, it was pretty much all there.

The problem is that when you’ve never lived in that environment, you might place high importance on something that the person you are interviewing sees as unimportant. You might assume that something he mentions is common when he is actually telling you about it because it is rare. And the truly ordinary stuff—the stuff novels are made of—may go unmentioned because it is so ordinary that he didn’t think you would want to hear about it.

One reason people like reading novels is because they give us a view of what other people consider ordinary. It isn’t ordinary to us, because we don’t live in that environment, but it is for our characters. No matter how fascinating we may find something, we don’t want our characters to be fascinated by something they find ordinary. We don’t want to put great emphasis on something that our characters would do without thought.

So, a little research is a dangerous thing. There’s a reason why we should write what we know. If we haven’t lived in the environment of the story, we may do more harm than good.