Thursday, September 13, 2012

Research and writing what you know...

Have you ever read a book and thought, "Wow! This must have taken tons of research"? I've done that many times, especially before I became a published author. It only recently occured to me how much research I do, some without even realizing it. It'll bet you do too.

"What, me?" you ask. "But I don't write."

Even if you don't write, your research is all around you. Do you have a favorite restaurant, a favorite grocery store? It's because you researched and found them. Every time you Google, you're doing research --research that can be used in a story. 

I've done some crazy things in the name of research, from joining a dating site to standing in a closet, trying to figure out logistics for a love scene. A good friend and fellow writer actually visited a car dealership to crawl into the back seat of a Mustang while writing an abduction scene and wondering how much room her protag had, how he was laying, how much he could see, etc. But again, some of my research happened without planning. I've even got a story that began as personal notes when I vacationed in Hawaii. 

Any experience can be a story, even a trip to the laundromat, 'cause hot, hunky firemen would have to go to the laundromat, right? And what if a nerdy college student bumped into him while reading a calculus text? See where this is going? Knowing where the washers are in relation to the dryers, where the drink machine is, etc., helps you to craft a believable story, or helps you visualize what you're reading. 

Diversion began as a few articles I'd read on pharmaceutical drug crimes, the key plot points practically knitting themselves together. My current WIP is the same. But how much is too much? I must admit that I watered down facts in Diversion, because the truth seemed very farfetched, even to me. So Lucky's time stealing a truck became five minutes, when the actual time, based on a true case, was two and half. I wasn't sure anyone would believe two and a half minutes, so I lengthened the time, and I cut the dollar value of the heist. 

In Collusion, the sequel to Diversion, I've again based the story on actual events happening in the US that most people I've bounced the idea off of didn't know existed, like a critical drug shortage that's forcing doctors to break the law and order illegal imports just to serve their patients' needs. "No doctor would do that!" I hear. Oh, yes they would, a known seventy-nine total to date since the crisis started, which brings me to my dilemma: what is more important, the truth, or believability? And where does good research cross the line, ripping a reader out of the story?

Thoughts, anyone?


  1. *grins* The things I've done in the name of research... bought sex toys for men, books on the Battle of Britain and surviving and living with a spinal cord injury, watched gay porn (research, honest!!) and more.

    Oddly enough, I just wrote a blog post on research and where to draw the line. I don't normally post links on other people's websites, but if you like, I can leave the link here. :-)

  2. Hi Sarah. By all means, post your link.

  3. You've gotta write a believable story and then stick to your guns when readers come barging in about the "truth". I think m/m readers in particular sometimes have a difficult time remembering that this is fiction. Because everyone is now a critic, and lets face it, at least half of what is out there needs a LOT of work, we get in the habit of looking for certain things and commenting on them -- one of which is the fact that sometimes the story needs a dose of realism. But not at the sake of the story, and sometimes readers forget that :)

    I love hearing research stories! so fun :)

  4. Thanks, Cole. While I did some research for this story, a lot of it are things I simply know due to my job, so I worry about putting in too many facts. Some of the plot may seem farfetched, but is based on real events. Maybe I should write a disclaimer. Collusion is turning out to be not so much m/m romance, but an action/adventure crime drama, in which the MC happens to be gay and, oh yeah, he has a boyfriend (thought Lucky would cringe at the word "boyfriend").