Insufficient information or research
“Drunk on research, exhilarated by arcane details”
― Sheridan Hay, The Secret of Lost Things
If you don’t know about what you are writing, then how can you know what you are writing?
Writing a coherent and convincing story relies heavily on the amount of research times that you have put in. Whether you are writing about an inner-city romance or an alien planet, research will be your best friend. The more information you accumulate the more convincing your story will become.
From the writing style and genre to the characterization and setting, there should always be a significant amount of research done on every aspect of your work.
Now I know I am simply reiterating the same sentiment, however repetition is generally the best way to really embed the message you are trying to get across in this situation.
Not having done the research and simply writing off the top of your head can leave your work feeling flat, devoid of believability, clumsy even and this can, and most likely will, lead to a sever bout of writer’s block. Without research you may not fully comprehend the concept or genre that you are attempting to emulate. You may not be able to convince your audience of your characterisation of a stay at home mum that also happens to be a psychopath. I say ‘may’ because, let’s face it, there are crazy creative minds out there that could, rare that they are and jealous that I am.
“I can’t write a novel without first really doing reporting. I don’t even call it research; it’s reporting. That process is very important to the granularity of my writing. I have to know what the reality is so I can be more convincing in the writing.”
― Lorraine Adams
- The internet
The internet is a trove of information. It’s boundless and one of the most obvious resources when beginning to research for a story. While I definitely encourage the use of the internet as a valuable and convenient source, I beg of you, do not rely on it for all of your research. Use it as a starting point, as a reference for your references. Because “’Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research’.” (― Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol)
- Analytical papers and essays
Analytical writings can be very beneficial to read, as they can present a different perspective and can be a great help in getting your facts straight. It all depends upon the way your mind responds to different types of stimuli I suppose is the best way to put it. I, personally, don’t respond creatively to analytical writings often, however I have known people that prefer information presented in this way.
When researching genre in particular, watching films can be particularly helpful in the visualisation and minute details. It doesn’t sound like much research and it’s definitely no hardship, I find this to be one of the more enjoyable methods. Take notes, re-watch scenes and figure out what makes these films exceptional and the genre come to life.
Documentaries are a great resource, especially if you want to embed some level of authenticity in relation to science. Take for example, Hard Sci-Fi. Star Trek is probably the best example of this particular genre. By definition Hard Science Fiction is about scientific accuracy and technical detail, so if you want to create a hard Sci-Fi work, obtaining as much information on the elements you intend to include is essential. Documentaries would be a useful resource as the information presented is very factual and accurate.
Making seemingly insignificant observations about what is happening around you could influence your work. Make notes, mark down everything you see or little snippets of conversations you hear. A stranger passing you on the street could inspire a character, you never know.
- Books. Always books
The most obvious, even more so then the internet. Read anything and everything. It’s the most lucrative form of research. Read novels in the same genre, the same writing style whether that be prose or epistolary. Read novels with similar concepts and plots. Just read. Don’t just read fiction, read nonfiction as well, even the most pedestrian “how to” book could be helpful, or guides concerning a certain aspect of life whether that be science, artificial intelligence or nature. Consume as much ink as you can.