Wednesday, May 21, 2014

getting it right - ish

by Clare O'Donohue

"How important is research in your stories, and has an error ever made it into print?"

I work in what is called "unscripted television", which is pretty much everything but news, sports, comedy and drama. It runs the gamut in quality and integrity from The Bachelor all the way to Nova. It should surprise no one that a) it is entirely scripted and b) depending on the show, is often filled with errors, though the errors are on purpose and theoretically,  make the show more dramatic and fun to watch.

However, when I'm writing novels, I prefer to get my drama from characters and skip  (as Stephen Colbert would say) "truthiness" in favor of the truth.

Which means I do research. I'm betting that most writers are like me, in that research is really half the fun. Writers, it turns out, do not just write what we know... we use writing as an excuse to learn about things we've always wanted to know.

Want to take an art class? Write a character who enrolls in art school and take a class as research.
Want to travel to Spain? Set a book there.
Want to spend all day at a museum and call it work? Use some information you get there as a plot twist. 

Anything you want to do, any place you want to go, any book you want to read... research. You don't have to worry about making a fool of yourself on the dance floor or bowling alley - it doesn't matter how well you do, you're doing research!

It's the ultimate writer get-out-of-jail free card (though don't try it to literally get out of jail - as in "I only robbed the bank as research for my next book."  I don't think this will fly with a judge.)

Which is to say, research is very important to me. Mainly because I like it. (Does that make sense?)

Having said that, have there been mistakes? Probably. I try very hard to get it right, and yet things do slip through. I'm okay with that.

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