In my Creative Writing Course, I look at the importance of research and discuss what needs to be researched in order to create a well-rounded and believable world for your novel.
Here is a quick taster/recap:
To create a believable setting, you will need to research history, events, culture, and information.
It is very important that you get the facts right about your chosen era and how historical events may have impacted your characters. Additionally, culture and religion play a big part in the personality and outlook of characters.
So now that you know what you need to research, you need to consider the many ways you can do your research - where are you going to find the information you need?
To access the first article on this topic, sign up to my creative writing course.
FILM AND FICTION
The easiest sources are via films and fiction; they are more entertaining than most!
But they aren’t always reliable: they are fiction, after all. Even films about Margaret Thatcher or Abraham Lincoln haven’t got their facts right; they tend to be biased.
Film and fiction is a good way of homing down the kind of era and culture you are interested in, but don’t rely on them for facts about your chosen era.
DOCUMENTARIES AND NONFICTION
More reliable are sources are documentaries and works of nonfiction.
To write my 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation, I watched a 20 hour documentary on the history of jazz music, purely so that I had the right facts to back up one of my arguments.
Documentaries are especially useful when they include interviews (of course, for some this isn’t possible). Hearing someone talk about their experiences can really help you piece together the culture of the time and place and will also help with your characterisation.
If you think you’re doing a lot of research, consider the research that goes into a large work of nonfiction!
You don’t have to read nonfiction books cover to cover - you can skip to the relevant bits!
If you want to go even closer to the source, you can find collections of journals in the larger libraries (all university libraries will have journal collections).
Other sources to use are news articles. You can access old news clips on youtube, google, and in libraries. They may not give you a sense of the whole picture of the event, but it’s interesting looking at how the media and public view the same events - most of the time you’ll find they view them very differently.
GOOGLE IMAGES AND WIKIPEDIA
A quick way of finding basic facts, like dates, is via wikipedia. Wiki doesn’t give all of the answers so don’t rely on it wholeheartedly.
I find that another useful source is google images. It’s brilliant for when you’re thinking about the fashion of the era you’re looking into. You can also find websites that are dedicated to information about specific eras.
And, finally, the most obvious (but, in my opinion, most boring) way of finding information is by going to museums. They can be a bit hit and miss and, again, can be hugely biased.
The research may not be the fun bit of writing a novel, but it is incredibly important. People say ‘don’t write about things you don’t already know about’. But even things you do know about will need to be researched...unless you’re writing a novel about yourself writing a novel...