Research Before You Write The Story
The first round of research is background material for your story. You may look for settings, hidden alleys, a great beach. Murder weapons or poison. The psychology of being a mistress. How to clean a Glock. Pharmaceutical drug research lab procedures.
Base your research requirements on your story premise.
Gather Broad-base Details
The aim of the first research is to discover background that will enrich the story for your readers. You are in discovery mode. When you find details, store them away. For beginning writers, know that 80% of your research will not show up in your story. The reverse of this that when you want a detail, you will have material to enliven your characters and enrich scenes.
Feet On the Ground
While an online search, will give you generic information, there's nothing like going to the place of your story.
What You Need
It doesn’t take much to explore your story’s location. You’ll need:
Google is a great place to start. But sometimes you need more detail or scholarly background.
Google Scholar gives you access to articles, book excerpts, and abstracts that won’t display in regular search results.
If you can’t get your feet on the ground, Google Earth displays very detailed images of cities and towns. Plug in a zip code or city, to search a certain area.
Need a mansion for a rich villain or a humble condo for your sleuth? Try Redfin. Images of exterior and interiors are yours for the asking. Be sure to save your images to your Research folder. These properties sell.
Books and Print Materials
Build a personal reference collection of books you can grab to enhance your overall knowledge and gather specific details.
As you search for just the right answers you may collect details from many sources: travel brochures, firearm manuals, used bookstores, government websites, maps, documentaries, medical journals, guidebooks, news broadcasts, trade magazines, public trials, almanacs, memoirs, regional histories, and other discoveries you find.
Guidelines for Research
Research can lead you down rabbit holes. You could spend years doing research. Your main goal is to write the story.
Beginning writers can feel that they don’t know enough. You can get trapped in an endless search for more information. Gather basic information and then start writing.
Because you won’t use 80% of the research you’ve done, the best approach is to begin your story.
Let the Story Guide the Research
No matter how much research you do, as you are writing you’ll discover details you want to know. Rather than trying to know everything before you start, do your general background research, then let the story guide the details you need.
As you write, you’ll discover needs you had not imagined. So, instead of attempting to get everything you need, collect general background. The story will tell you the specific details you need.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.