If we literally followed the advice to, "write what you know," we wouldn't have stories about boy wizards, ruby slippers, or epic wars sweeping across a galaxy. Of course, we might argue that the person who imagined those things does, in fact, know them. Writer's face a bigger challenge when they want to write about something, like a city or a profession, with which they have no experience but others know very well.
There are many ways to learn about something unfamiliar: books, travel, interviews, etc. Between its search engine, maps, and street view, Google makes it particularly easy to pick up a passing familiarity with a topic or take a virtual tour of a place.
But the particular problem for writers is that we generally don't have time to become experts on the topic. So how do you know when you've done enough research to use the unfamiliar thing in your story without giving the people who actually know the thing reason to throw your book across the room?
I use the following guidelines:
I have a longer discussion about research techniques when writing about the unfamiliar on my blog, The Laws of Making.
- Your research isn't done until you've discovered something surprising about the topic.
- Your research isn't done until you can explain how the conventional wisdom is right and wrong.
CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS
Here are my current Giveaway Contests
Blood Rose Rebellion through March 25th
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop through March 28th
Agent Kate McKean Query Critique and BRACED giveaway through April 1st
Kristy Hunter Query Critique Giveaway through April 8th
THE SOMEDAY BIRDS through April 8th
Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways
Tracy Marchini on 4/17/2017
Loren Oberweger on 5/10/2017
Alyssa Jennette on 5/24/2017
Bibi Lewis on 6/12/2017
Kelly Van Sant on 6/21/2017
Tip Tuesday #68
Deren Hansen on research! Please visit his blog as thanks.
Posted by Casey McCormick on Tuesday, December 21, 2010