There is absolutely no way to get out of doing research for your book. It’s simply not an option. The choice you do have as a writer is to determine the method of research you use. Do you go to the library? Use the internet? Chat up folks you know and/or interview professionals? Sure, you’re a writer and a big part of writing fiction is making stuff up but there are certain things you can’t just make up. As a writer you need to decide your book’s setting; the country or state, city, urban or rural. What year is the story taking place? What type of house do your characters live in? The year/make/model of the car they drive, the style of clothes they wear, the fast-food they eat. What model phone do they have? What programs do your characters watch on TV? What movies are they going to? What music do they listen to? And on and on.
Book one of The Heart’s Journey Home takes place during summer vacation, 2009. That meant I couldn’t incorporate anything into the story that occurred after that timing. No post-2009 phones, iPod, tablets, computers, TVs, cars, movies, music or TV shows. Because the book ends around August, AJ can’t see the movie Avatar until December, which will be in book two. As a writer you owe it to your characters to fully develop them. The main character Tori is part Lakota which means her Tribe has a specific Reservation, where? Since I don’t speak Lakota and she does I had to research a few words and phrases. Her father is part Norse so his Viking background had to be researched. The live-in girlfriend is Jewish, my roots are Black Baptist so that had to be researched. AJ lost a leg to juvenile cancer so that had to be researched. Yes, as a writer I’m taking the reader on a make-believe journey but for the story to be real to the reader I had to incorporate some real, factual details – things the reader knows and is familiar with. Things the reader will catch if you’re sloppy and don’t want to do the research.
Bing defines continuity as – the maintenance of continuous action and self-consistent detail in the various scenes of a movie or broadcast. I’d like to add – or book. For a writer continuity means consistent detail to the work as a whole. You owe it to the reader to do the proper research but you also owe it to the work itself, and to the craft. Why are you a writer in the first place? I hope it’s for the same reason I write – I straight up love it. I’m possessed by writing. I don’t want to do anything else with my life. Writing is the dream of my dreams. Then don’t I owe something to that? Don’t I owe the best of me to that? To my dream?
The last thing you as a writer should want is for the reader to catch a slip – something out of time or sequence. That’s distracting enough to yank the reader right out of the land of the story and plant them right back home in the present, the very place they were using your book to escape from for a few hours.
Research doesn’t have to be boring or tedious, it can actually be fun. And it’s the greatest muse because it puts your writer head further into the story. Test it for yourself. You’ve run into writer’s block? Pick something in the story to research and see if that doesn’t get your juices flowing again.
Invest in the book. Invest in the reader. Do the research.