Some authors simply love doing the research they need for their novel, while others don’t. However, research is necessary – your novel will not be good enough, will not feel real enough to the readers unless you have background information about your characters’ jobs, how they do them, and many other things that may seem small and insignificant, but they add to the richness and authenticity of your story. But there is also too much research – and this occurs when writers spend a lot of pages, chapters and paragraphs incorporating everything they’ve researched into their novels, and make the readers feel as if they’re reading a textbook on a particular subject. This is why there are several things you need to keep in mind when you’re doing research for your novel.
1. Decide what you need
The first thing you need to do before you begin researching your novel is deciding what you know about the subject, and what you don’t know. Think about what you’ve seen, heard and lived – because your own experiences are the best source of information. You will be surprised to find out what you do know already. You might not know how to fly an airplane, but you know humanity, human behavior, and you also know how the world works. Using that knowledge as a source is a good way to begin writing, because the words will come easily to you. Additionally, nothing will teach you more about writing than the act of writing itself; writing what you know will be a good way to practice your craft. And later, writing what you have researched will begin to feel just as natural to you as writing about things you’re already familiar with.
2. Use the library
Once you know what you need to learn, the library is the best source you can get. Befriend the librarians, for they will be able to point you in the right direction, and will tell you which books you will need. Librarians are professional researchers and have access to plenty of online library resources, as well as books, newspapers and more. Also, they will be able to give you answers to specific questions, and if not, tell you where exactly you will be able to find the information you need. This way, instead of stumbling in the dark and feeling overwhelmed, you will be able to carry out your research faster and better.
3. Talk to different people
Nobody will tell you better how to be a pilot than a pilot. The same is true for any other profession or a place to live. People love to talk about themselves and about their jobs. You shouldn’t encounter any trouble getting someone to talk to you about their job or the places where they’ve lived. However, be careful how you ask. Make sure that the people you’re talking to know why you need the information, and how you’re going to use it in your novel. For example, if you want to incorporate something specific that has happened to them, or if you want to write about something similar to that, make sure to ask for their permission.
If you can, try to travel to the place that is the setting of your novel, because the best way to research a place is to visit it personally. Once there, you can put yourself in your characters’ shoes and describe everything from their point of view, from the people, to the weather and specific places that they visit during the course of your novel. Don’t forget to use all five senses when you’re describing the place, from sight to sounds, as well as pay attention to small details that will help you make the setting feel more real and alive to the readers, and make them feel as if they’re really there.
5. Use the internet
The internet is inarguably the biggest source of information in this day and age. You can do all kinds of research from your desk since all that information is at your fingertips. However, the problem with the internet is that you might find information that doesn’t come from reliable sources. To avoid this, choose websites and sources of information that are affiliated with universities, governments, or museums. Also, check the date of when the information was posted, to ensure it’s not outdated.
Image credit: Neil Conway on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic.
As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.