A key element to writing fiction, believe it or not, is the authenticity of what you’re writing. By authenticity, I mean the believability of what you’re writing. You can’t say, for example, that your main character is an astronaut without first researching all there is to know on the subject; otherwise, you, as the author, will, frankly, come off as a joke or unreliable. You need to know what you’re talking about in order for your audience to believe in you and your writing. This can be done in one word: research.
Today, more than ever, there are many options one can find their research and really no excuses to not know your stuff.
1. The World Wide Web
The Internet is a beautiful place full of magical wonder. You can Google anything and thousands of options will appear for your disposal. This is probably the easiest way to research just about anything you need to know on any subjects.
2. Go To Your Local Library
There are these ancient buildings, once known as The Library. I hear they’re filled with hundreds of books that smell of old paper and dust. These books can hold many truths and wisdoms and they’re just waiting on shelves for you to go get them. Some of these Libraries even have a room filled with town records, censuses, and newspaper articles for any historical references.
3. Contact/Interview A Specialist
If you’re talking about a very particular field that you are not already well versed in, you may want to consult someone who is an expert in that field. For example, some mystery writers, believe it or not, weren’t former cops or CIA and actually had to do much research in that field before having their main character be a Super Secret Agent and you bet your patootie that they interviewed many people in that field. Those authors do their research, which is why they’re so popular.
4. YouTube It
Okay, one of us may or may not have been guilty of doing this. And one of us may or may not have wondered how to ride a motorcycle and looked up a How-To video. All I gotta say ‘bout it, is it was extremely helpful, sometimes we need to see how something is done—a demonstration is nice—and now one of our characters may or may not get around on a nice bike…and I don’t mean bicycle.
5. Experience It Yourself
There is no better way, honestly, to research something than to actually go out and experience yourself. If, for example, your character is an avid gun user, gosh dern it, go out there and shoot a gun! Feel what it’s like for yourself. Learn what it feels it, the adrenaline, how heavy it is, the recoils, the loud bangs, how to load it, clean it, gun safety, etc. etc. As they say, we write what we know. So go out and experience the many wonders of life.
6. Your Friends And Family Are There For A Reason
Friends and family can actually come in handy. They may know something you don’t and therefore are a good resource to go to. If you look at the acknowledgements in the back of New Moon, you see Stephenie Meyer wrote, “A special thanks to my brother Paul for the motorcycle riding lesson—you have a true gift for teaching.” In the very least, we can say that Meyer got the motorcycle riding facts right.
Please, please, never guess or assume facts. All you have to do, really, is a quick Google search. That simple gesture will save your writing career! :o
No, seriously, it’s important to have that authenticity behind your writing. If anything, you owe it to your readers…and really yourself and your reputation as a writer. If you need more information on how to go about researching so your stories are authentic, I strongly recommend Bird by Bird, and also, Writing Fiction For Dummies.