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Research Rules

How research expands your writing world.

As writers, we’re all guilty of staying for far too long in our comfort zones. We tend to write what we like to read, what we are familiar with and what we feel we can write immediately without doing any research. For many of us, writing time is snatched and hurried and if we only have a free half an hour then we’re going to write as much as we can in that half an hour rather than spending time googling about professions and cities and train timetables and poisons and dog breeds and medical terminology and laws and…

There are literally hundreds of thousands of topics that you could research. And each one of those topics allows you to write about something new, allows you to create someone new. It opens up a whole new world of possible stories.

Understanding police procedure allows you to write modern day crime. Without it, you have to stick to an amateur sleuth story line. Understanding how social media works allows you to write a story featuring teenagers. Without it, you couldn’t write a story for a YA audience that was set in the present day. Understanding how on-line dating works allows you to write a modern romance. Without it, you have to set your story at least 15 years ago.

You might not be interested in writing a crime, YA or romance novel set in the present day, but these genres and the characters that feature in these stories might be just what you’re looking for as a writer. Only, you’ll never know if you don’t give them a try, and you can’t give them a try if you can't commit to doing any research.

Consider a piece you’re currently working on. Would it be better and more original if it were set in a different century or its characters were grave robbers instead of farriers? Would your solid rom-com sing if your hero was an 18th century composer instead of a 21st century banker? What about giving your protagonist an entirely different skill set? What about setting your psychological thriller in the art-dealing world or setting a comedy in the world of taxidermy or rabbit breeding?

Each of these shifts might make your story come to life but each of them requires extensive research. I think it’s worth doing – being able to confidently write something entirely different to what your normally do is freeing and a great exercise in creativity. Do the research and let your imagination run wild.


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