Monday, August 21, 2006

Research-Time Well Spent or Wasted?

I'm obsessed. My research on Tuesday started out innocent enough. I simply wanted a title of a Minerva Press novel that my heroine could be reading.

For those who don't know, Minerva Press printed novels during the Regency period. They were romantic stories of high society and Gothic tales. These novels were frowned upon, but young ladies managed to read them.
I found a wonderful site of British literature ( that even listed works by year. Found several wonderful titles--Ankerwick Castle, The Monk of the Grotto, The Enchantress, Mysterious Husband, and Nobility Run Mad. I decided on The Pirate of Naples. Sounded like a good book my heroine would read.
I plug the title into my WIP. But then, that's not enough. My hero needs to ask a question and have the heroine answer. Of course, this book is the one no site has. No where can I find a synopsis. I spend hours searching the title and the author's name. Didn't come up with much.
My point is for one simple fact that wasn't all that important, I spent a lot of time on the internet. Time that could better be spent actually writing. If I couldn't find anything on the book, then most people aren't going to be familiar with it. Yet, I feel an urge to know more about it.
Whether writing historical or contemporary, research confronts writers. Do you make up cities where you can create your own world or do you use actual cities? If you use real places, someone invariably is going to comment on something you got wrong about the place. Or if a character has an occupation that you're unfamiliar with. Or if they want to blow up something. Never mind that we write fiction.
Do you ever get sidetracked with your research? Or do you figure it doesn't matter that much for fiction?


Kathy said...

This is something I have a big problem with Debbie. Is it an historical writer's curse?

Like you, I'll spend hours researching, get side-tracked, add information, need more, etc... Sometimes it seems like a vicious cycle. I've heard people say, research only what you need at the time (well, it's too much fun and I can't do without it), or write the book, leave a black space and then go back later on when you do revisions. That's too hard! My mind rejects the idea because in order to move along, I need that information to build upon.

What do we do? Find a middle ground. I have to admit though, like you I would keep searching for that synopsis. Stuff like that gives dialogue life and enhances the character. But that advice comes from me, a research junkie.

Good luck,

Carla Swafford said...

Not just the historical authors.::g:: My heroine made a comment about a rare blood type, but I didn't know what that would be. Two hours later and more information on blood than I ever would want to know, I got it. AB negative. Plus I now know that my husband's ancestors were probably from eastern Europe because he has B positive. All this for one sentence.