Ah, research. I know it doesn’t necessarily sound fun (unless you’re one of those people, like me, who goes, “Oh, I don’t really know anything about evil spirits. Time to go to the library! Glee!”) but a little realism can go a long way.
Even if it’s something as simple as looking at a map to see where things are in relation to each other, research can be the difference between taking your reader on a fantastic read and distracting them to the point where they’re pulled out of the story.
To continue on with the post from a few weeks ago, I have a book I’m editing that partially takes place in Greece. I wrote that section based off random tidbits I’ve picked up from pop culture over the years. However, one of my beta readers had been to Greece, and the whole section distracted her because she could tell how wrong I was.
But it’s not just places that can benefit from research. Mythology, science, history, societal customs, languages–all of these can bring richness and fullness to your story. It’s one thing to have a Hispanic character, but another to look into common customs in Hispanic households. Looking into mythology can teach you little known facts about legends that provide the direction you need to bring your story together. And it’s one thing to write about a Victorian-esque society, but actually knowing something about the Victorians will help you sell it.
So, how do you go about researching? Well, I recommend choosing the media that appeals to you the most. I always hit the books first because that’s my preference. (Assuming the library has books on the particular subject.) Then I head to the internet. I try to stick to somewhat legitimate sources, such as Wikipedia. But if you find it hard to pick up facts from the written word, you can listen to podcasts or watch movies.
Take notes as you go, or you’ll never remember everything you want to.
Any researching tips you’d like to pass on, Squiders? Any books you’ve read recently where someone obviously didn’t bother?