Writing Tips: Research ... or finding stuff out - Mo Fanning

Writing Tips: Research … or finding stuff out

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Research is one of the key factors to make for writing an enjoyable story. There’s nothing more jarring than reading something factually incorrect. The error can be something tiny, but if the author gets their research wrong, they can break through the ability for readers to suspend belief and lose themselves in the on-page world.

You can’t just throw together a story and expect your work to be well received.

If you’re writing about a character who sustains an injury that leaves him with a limp, you need to research how it would affect their ability to walk. Does he limp? Or does he skip? Does he drag a foot? What kind of treatment would he have had? What activities can he still do with the injury? And an injury today would be different two hundred years ago. Everything has to fit the time period, or the story becomes unbelievable.

Research crazy science

Your heroine can’t be a damsel in distress unless she’s in danger. What kind of danger? What does she do to solve her own problem? Does she seek help, refuse help, or just accept her place in the world?

Stephen King adds a lot of crazy science to his books, but he does his research. He’s always on top of minor, but important details. He also has a great editor who keeps an eye on things.

Researching lupus

For my next book, I was lucky enough to be granted access to an online community for people who suffer from an autoimmune disease called lupus. I could talk to people who live with this disease every day. It was a privilege to learn about how they handle their lives and I’m so grateful they’re willing to share their stories. I hope I can make them proud by telling the story honestly.

Of course, sometimes research gets in the way of writing. You can find yourself stuck in a rut, revising the same scene over and over. You could even find the story you had hoped to tell simply won’t work thanks to something you find out. But isn’t it better to find that problem before you commit thousands of words to the page?

Research can be boring. It can be hard. It can be tedious. It will take time away from writing your story.

But it’s worth it.

My top five research sites

  1. Infoplease
    A reference and learning site, combining the contents of an encyclopedia, a dictionary, an atlas and several almanacs loaded with statistics, facts, and historical records.

  2. The Internet Public Library
    A whole bunch of essays to crib from when the writing gets tough

  3. Refdesk
    Like Infoplease – links out to places where you can find out more to boost credible story writing.

  4. Snopes
    Explore and explode urban myth.

  5. Wikipedia

By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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