Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Research (Again)

I found myself thinking today about research for my writing.  Don't ask me why, my pshrink says I'm mildly ADD (or as I call it "ADOS": Attention Deficit--Ooooh, Shiny).  So here's what I've been thinking:

For Hammer of Thor I read all or parts of five books (2 fiction, 3 non-fiction), lots of internet research (planes, weapons, uniforms), plus because my father is a war movie nut I've probably seen every movie made about WWII.  And I watched a documentary about the Korean War.  (I also knew a lot about Korea from my time in the Army even though I was never stationed there.) 

For Agent of Artifice I read all or part of four books (all non-fiction), plus I spent a day in the Chicago library reading newspapers from that era (specifically, when my character was in Chicago).  I watched three movies (fiction) on the Cuban revolution (none of them very good).  I travelled to Seattle to visit the Space Needle and I even traveled to Key West to see what it looked like (I was in Miami on business).  Plus lots of internet research (the CIA, the Bay of Pigs invasion, weapons, Cuba before the revolution, mobsters in Chicago). And on a trip to San Francisco I walked by the Huntington Hotel (which forced me to re-write a few things in Hammer of Thor and re-write a whole scene in Agent of Artifice but it ended up being a great scene).

For Book of Death I read all or parts of two non-fiction books, communicated through email with a Romanian who immigrated to America (she wrote one of the books I read), and lots of internet research (Romania, Vlad the Impaler, and more).  I also watched two documentaries on San Francisco in the late '60s.

However, for Rock Killer I did very little research.  But it was science fiction so I had to do no historical research like on the Adept Series books (the three listed above). I did a little internet research on space life-support systems but most everything else in the book either I knew from college courses or it was science fiction (I tried to make Rock Killer as scientifically accurate as I could).  I found someone who spoke Arabic and they gave me some background on culture and politics of the Middle East.

Then comes my latest almost-finished book, the last book in the Adept Series (unless I write another) called Gods of Strife.  I read zero books and everything was done on the internet.  I watched no movies or documentaries (unless Argo counts but I didn't learn anything from it).  I did travel to Seattle to walk through the Concorde at the Museum of Flight.

And here's the thing: Rock Killer, my least researched novel, is my best-reviewed book (sometimes I think the Adept Series is too unique for a lot of people).  So the amount of research I put into a book does not necessarily correlate at all to how good people think the book is.

Gods of Strife I think is a really good book (but I think all my books are really good) and it has almost no research.  I think I spent more time researching a Lamborghini Countach than anything else.  So how much research I put into a book doesn't seem to make it better or worse.

My thoughts on research are that you can't do too much unless you lived through what you're writing about. But what you can (and shouldn't do) is show off how much research you did by putting in some cool thing you learned that isn't germane to your narrative.

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