Fiction Writers, Do Your Research



I struck up a conversation with a gentleman in a hospital waiting room last week. I shared a little about my writing and he responded with a comment that made me think.

He made an observation that, to him, writing fiction was quicker and easier than writing non-fiction because it did not require research.

At first thought, I agreed with him. But, later that evening, I put pen to paper and contemplated whether or not that was actually as true as it appeared on the surface.

Here is a list of just some of the research necessary for every fiction writer to complete in order to write an authentic book:

a) Learn about the setting of your book, such as the state/country, the type of weather, the topography, terrain, type of government, and so on.

b)  What type of people live there? Is their speech distinctive?  In what type of industries might they be employed?

c)  In what year/time period does your story take place? What is going on in the world at that time? What hair and dress styles are prevalent? What music is popular?

d) Do any of your characters experience an illness or disability?  If so, you will need to know how it affects his life, treatments he might experience, etc. How will he interact with others?

e) Do your characters meet with a disaster? You may have to learn about floods, earthquakes, fires, and so on.

f) How old are your characters? What kind of music, games, activities are appropriate?

A good editor will catch some of these things, such as when mine caught it when I wrote  about something that would not have even been invented yet!!

But, don’t count on someone else to do it. You’ve got to do your homework and make your book as authentic as possible.

Some say a book is successful when it is so real that the reader actually feels he/she is experiencing the action right along with the characters.

Part of making this happen is doing the hard work ahead of time.

It’s called: research.


2 thoughts on “Fiction Writers, Do Your Research

  1. I love reading novels (and sometimes non-fiction) and always have two available: the one I’m reading and the one close by waiting to be read. I’m certainly not an authority on writing or writers like you are but it has always amazed me, without me researching it, how much research a fiction writer has to do! I’ve heard it said that one doesn’t learn much from reading novels. Not true! Facts and fiction and history and so many other things that you mentioned above are mixed in and one learns in a very entertaining way. So I really enjoyed this blog. Thank you. R

    P.S. I guess I couldn’t send you this reply unless I included my email address and name, although not what intended. But I really wanted to respond to it.


    • Thank you, Ruben, for your reply. I am doing a LOT of research, currently. My new series for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers is requiring a lot of research into the medical field. However, it is information I really want to know and although it isn’t all used in my books, the background is just as important for guidance in writing. It is also shared on my new website, AID (Assisting Individuals with Dementia). Check it out!!! Hope all is well with you. Thanks for your support. Brenda


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