The Importance of Research

A view of the city I grew up in and the main setting for the novel.

My new project is a historical novel. It’s intended to be the first in a five-book series. It’s set in 1951 and will incorporate some of the histories of the area I grew up in. 

As a teenager, I found I enjoyed studying history. I was fascinated by not only what happened, but why things happened. My main area of interest was the Great Depression. Little did I know that it would come to have great significance to me personally. But that’s just a side issue.

I wouldn’t like to say I’m an expert at research, but I think it’s important. I know of a lot of writers who do their research. Some even go so far as to try to live the life of their characters. I can remember in one novel by Dean Koontz, the character (who was an author in the story) was doing research for a novel. This involved knowing how to use various ordinance, and how to negotiate the world of illegal arms dealing.

I’m finding there are a lot of things I need to know to have some historical accuracy. These are just little things, like terms people used,  or slang. Even things that might be overlooked, like what people did after church services. My list of questions grows the deeper I get into the story. While that might not matter to some readers, to me, it is important to include those little details.

It’s the attention to those things that make a story that much more interesting and richer, in my mind. We often find in stories we read that there are references to things we don’t know. These days, there are television programmes that include references to pop culture. They can often can leave me scratching my head. It makes me want to look up that particular reference. But then, that is a part of my personality; I pay attention.

Another detail that I think is important is the dialogue. I remember years ago when I watched a documentary on the history of television in New Zealand. One of the things that were mentioned was that early newscasters would always speak very formally. They would mimic those from the BBC in news broadcasts. At present, I’m writing the dialogue as almost formal, with very little vernacular. That may change as I talk to people who know a little of the history of that time period. I already have plans to talk with two ladies who would probably have been teenagers or a little older in that era. I’m sure they’ll be a mine of information.

My new book doesn’t have a title yet. I wanted something unique, but still fitting to the plot of the story. Titles can often be one of the hardest things to come up with. You either have an idea from the start or it comes to you in what can only be called a ‘Eureka’ moment. I’m sure it will come to me as I go through the process.

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