"Every topic, whether fiction or non-fiction, needs an element of research to ensure credibility."
Research for Writer Credibility
Writing and research go hand in hand. Every topic, whether fiction or non-fiction, needs an element of research to ensure credibility. If the manuscript isn’t accurate, the reader will recognize the flaw and toss our work aside. If a writer is spot-on, he/she will be rewarded with good reviews and more readers. Sort of a no-brainer for us writers.
How do we conduct the research process effectively and efficiently?
Focus: List what is needed for the writing project in chronological order. This includes setting, characters, dialogue, culture, topic, interviews, and settings.
Develop: What specialty people need to be contacted to ensure reliable information? Create a list of questions.
Map: Where does the writer need to visit for experience and sensory perception?
The following questions and suggestions will help the writer focus, develop, and map out a strategic research plan.
- Visit the area’s chamber of commerce.
- Conduct a web search of the area. Some apps will help you with this: Google Maps, Google Earth, Weather Bug, or travel sites that can be found via apps or websites.
- Take or download more pictures than you think you’ll ever use. *Remember, if you use online images beyond personal research, purposes, obtain them from a royalty-free site such as Pixabay or Unsplash.
- Interview people living in the area. For a historical setting, this also means reading diaries and journals. How has history affected the community?
- Listen to how local people talk. Do they use a distinct vocabulary? Journal these distinctions. Ask permission to record for later playback.
- What are the community’s values and expectations for life and each other?
- What is their diet? How much of their food supply is local?
- How is the area governed?
- What are the local hotels? Restaurants? What’s featured on the menus? Any daily specials?
- What are the sources of entertainment?
- How do the residents celebrate holidays?
- Does the community have special festivals?
- How does the area experience the seasons, and what are average temperatures?
- What are the medical concerns? What kind of medical care is available?
- In what kinds of homes do they live?
- Where do they shop?
- How do the people dress?
- Do the arts play a vital role in the community?
- How do locals view education, sports teams, and favorite colleges?
- How do the residents earn a living?
21. If the area is near a national or state park, look for research material in
the visitors’ section.
22. Discover the wildlife and birds of the region.
23. Study the types of trees and wildflowers.
24. Locate a map of the area.
25. Visit the local library. View newspaper archives.
26. Does politics play a role?
27. What churches and other religious affiliations are in the area?
28. Look for documentaries about the area.
29. What are the people’s joys?
30. What do people fear?
When a writer is cognizant of what is needed to make a manuscript zip with authenticity, readers clamor for more.
How do you conduct writing research?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers.
DiAnn is passionate about helping other writers be successful and speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston. DiAnn is very active online and loves to connect with readers on social media and at www.diannmills.com.