Warning: Copious Personal Anecdote ahead. If hearing about another person’s life causes you indigestion or chronic migraine then please consult your nearest doctor. Otherwise enjoy.
Research is integral to the writing process. How else would we figure out:
As frustrating as it may seem at times, research always proves to be a boon. Sometimes learning what you don’t know can be just what one needs to get themselves out of a rut. A while back I learned the joy of this discovery and brought it up whenever possible.
During one such conversation, a friend of mine said. “I’ve written a book already so I know how much research I need.” Knowing he was feeding me a question, I bit the hook and asked “how much?” He smirked and what he said next haunts me to this day.
“None at all,” he said with a smile. “I don’t need to research anything. It’s my world, and therefore it’s my rules. So what if it doesn’t make sense, it makes sense to me.”
As someone who stays up at ungodly hours, cycling through random Wikipedia pages for any scrap of information, you could guess my general reaction. After much frustrated stuttering he raised his hand to defend himself.
“Well, maybe not research in the regular sense. See, I watch a lot of movies. I play videogames all the time, and I often spend hours and hours doodling.”
I smirked at him and said, “sounds like procrastination to me.”
He shrugged and replied, “Maybe so. But it helps me write.”
We then changed the subject but what he said nagged in the back of my mind. How in the Seven Hells could someone procrastinate and still have the wherewithal to churn out a story? It bothered me to no end, so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to write. So I put on one of my favorite movies which I won’t mention here*.
During the movie, the protagonist is being chased by a terrible beast. Mid-flight, they and a friend rush into a thorny forest where they hope to elude their attacker. The assailant peeks in, hoping to catch a glimpse of its prey and tries to get at the protagonists through the holes in their defense.
As I watched this scene I remember I wrote a similar scene in my story. The more I saw, the more I realized I wrote this scene almost word for word.
That’s when it clicked: Yes my friend was procrastinating, but the way he did it gave him fuel to write his stories. And if what we enjoyed could be used to create, then what we did could do the same as well.
Silly as the above picture makes it sound, sometimes little things like this can make or break a story. Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) once said that watching a guy paint a store window helped him write (full information here. It’s a good one).
I know writers tend to be an introverted bunch so this last bit of advice may seem a bit overwhelming. However, if you go outside and try something new, you’ll always be richer for the experience.
Research comes in many forms and I think it’s worth a try to do any of the three. If you have trouble with research, I say start with looking up stuff you think is cool. If you don’t like watching movies or procrastinating then set aside your work for all of five minutes and goof off. If you’re not comfortable with trying new things then try something you like in a different manner and you may end up surprising yourself.
So go out and research, for the only wrong way is to not do it at all.
So how do you all like to research? Do you have something that always gives you a muse? Does a particular type freak you out to the core? Is there something you would like to try? Let me know in the comments. Otherwise, have a nice day.
(*The movie is The Land Before Time)