Research is a fundamental part of writing. Sometimes we think we know everything about a topic or place, but it’s always good to check the facts. Readers are savvy, and an error can pull them right out of your story. It happened to me while reading a well-known book set in Germany. Dialog yanked me out of the story and I turned to the back cover to check, knowing only an Australian author would use that phrase not a German, and I was right.
I love the convenience of the internet, but I turn to other novels, and here’s why they are my first point of reference:
- Reading novels similar to what I’m writing helps determine no one’s already written the same idea I have.
- Non-fiction novels and credited magazine articles give me the background information I need for a particular setting or character.
- Sometimes, I’m just hunting for specific vocabulary for a character so I’ll read something set in the same era and/or location.
At the time of writing this post I had just finished wading through a dictionary of slang, picking out words and phrases I heard as a child but swore I’d never use. As I added another phrase to my collection, I felt my characters’ dialog come to life.