I have a love hate relationship with research. On the one hand, I love learning new things; I love finding out the nitty gritty of why something happens or does what it does. I find there’s a particular joy that comes from understanding things better (though that could just be me), and a new kind of confidence when you’ve put in the work for your story and feel comfortable to write about certain things.
Then there’s the part where all your time consuming, distracting research barely contributes a paragraph to the story. Like I said, I like ‘knowing’, I really do, but it’s so damn frustrating when you’re finding out just for you. Because there are times where too much information is unnecessary. Speaking from personal experience, info dumps in novels or even movies are frustrating. Too much at any one time takes away from what’s happening, and so often they appear contrived; just happening for the readers benefit because everyone IN the book already knows this shit.
On the flip side, being the writer that has to convey all that is HARD AS F@#K. Pardon my french. But seriously, you have ALL the information you’ve spent hours/days/weeks/whatever researching, you want to convey all this awesomeness in your work, but you have to find subtle ways to do it that don’t overload the reader or make you sound like a dictionary. Then there’s the part where you don’t even get to put most of the information in because it’s not relevant to the reader just you as a writer, and some small, desperate voice inside you screams about how you should tell them anyway because it’s cool and amazing and yet… not what they came to read.
I sometimes worry that if I die, my search history is going to be a real mindf@$k to any cop that goes through it. Last week, here’s what made the list:
Avatar: The Last Airbender (tv series),
John Oliver - Killing Teen Slang,
Nerds With Vaginas (Facebook page),
Google Docs (A LOT of google docs),
How To Train Your Dragon 3,
American Gods (tv series and book),
more google docs,
mythical monsters that eat humans,
legendary creatures on Wikipedia (don’t judge me for Wikipedia - it’s handy AF),
happy birthday memes,
dead bodies in rivers,
the effects of a river on a dead body,
nightclubs in manhattan,
Lake Eyre from space,
Can you bleed to death in a river,
Yeah. All of that.
I’m hopeful that most writers of fantasy, thriller, horror, etc, have a similar kind of search history (unless they’re deleting it as they go…). The digital era is proving most useful in that regard; what would’ve taken weeks to track down via books and encyclopedia’s now takes minutes clicking through links.
Not, I might add, that I don’t take the time to go through books too. I have a mythological creatures book in my room thick enough to cause blunt force trauma.
So all that ^ being said… I’m never ‘not’ going to research for my books, my characters, etc. Like I said, love hate relationship. The knowing is so important if you expect people to believe the story you’re trying to tell. I take my hat off to writers like Andy Weir and Pierce Brown; I can only imagine the research they’ve done for their novels. My mind boggles at the idea, because if it involves space or mathematics, I’m borderline useless.