The dangers of research for fiction writers

It matters not if you write period fiction or contemporary there is research to do. The two e-novels I wrote were period, one set in New York of 1911, the other in Los Angeles of 1922. I used period maps of the cities to make sure the streets were the same, and also to make sure where the characters were headed was the right direction. If say, I want a man to go from the Braddock Hotel north to the Polo Grounds, I must be sure where everything is. When I write a car chase in Los Angeles, I needed to know the streets so as not to muck things up.

That sort of research is easy, as is researching for night clubs, restaurants, and speak-easies in 1922 Los Angeles and Hollywood. I can also research costume, cars and so on. But one thing  a writer can not do is fall in love with research. I find it fun because I love culture and history and the 1920’s is a fascinating time.

I am mistaken of course. A writer can and should fall in love with research, but do not include everything you find. Do not make it stand out like a BiG tYPo.

What you uncover should be used to give verisimilitude to the story and characters. The characters and story are in the foreground, the research in the background. Of course there can be an exception. In “Loonies in Hollywood” a flapper by the name of Clancy picks up a friend from the police station. She has a new car, an expensive and rare car. Her friend Chet admires the automobile and Clancy points out all the salient things about the car that anyone with such a fancy rig would do. But her prattling on about the car and the way she talks is character revelation. It has been mentioned that she is the daughter of a rich banker, a bit spoiled, but a lovely carefree flapper. So by her talking about a Heine-Velox costing $25,000 that her father bought her as a bribe to go to college I am showing character, not love of research.

Remember a writer creates a picture with words; a writer does not create a mini-Wikipedia to impress.

This is a link to my books on Amazon.



Filed under dalies, e-book publishing, fiction, fiction writing, Uncategorized, writers, writing

2 responses to “The dangers of research for fiction writers

  1. Your post has arrive in my e-mail at such perfect time!! I am bumfuzzled as to where to begin my own research of the late 1930’s & 40’s in Charleston,WV, where my story is set. I’ve got as far as knowing the women’s fashions of the ’40’s, some of the weather facts of 1941 (tornadoes in Appalachia, very unusual, I think) & other not so critical info. How do we, as writers get ahold of old city maps? As you had mentioned.


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