Research is always an important part of the writing process. Gathering information to add life and credibility to a story. The satisfaction of finding some gems that you have been searching for, or ones that you didn’t realize you were needing to add to your narrative. Weaving both fact and fiction together. Trying to determine at what point creative licence can take certain liberties with the truth … it is fiction after all. Do you want to the reader to believe the characters, settings and events are entirely plausible or will they be inclined to say to themselves “as if ?”
If you choose towns or other places that exist – you want people who have been there to go – “yeah that’s what it’s like….I’ve been there… I remember that place”…and you want your description to lure other people into wanting to visit and see for themselves…or maybe you paint such a vivid picture of a invented locale that readers are genuinely disappointed the place isn’t real.
I can be quite pedantic with research at times- which may or may not be a good thing. When putting photos together from a trip to Europe, I was trying to caption as many pictures as possible. Which was okay if it was of a building, for example, that we had spent some time visiting – but not so much if it was a passing shot from a Hop On, Hop Off tour bus. There was one particular building in Paris and I just couldn’t find out it’s name. It was frustrating me no end. I typed in so many descriptor combinations of the building – hoping that an image would turn up. It had a green domed roof with figures around the roof line. After a lot of searching I discovered it was the Palace of the Legion of Honour. Finally, I could caption the photo.
At the moment because of the huge number of bush fires burning in Australia there is a social media frenzy happening – people are seeing articles and pictures on their feeds and reposting assuming that the information is correct without doing a basic check. There are photos of animals that were taken a couple of years ago – but attributed to this fire season. A photo of firies dancing after rain fell – not taken recently. A photo of a family sheltering under a pier as a bush fire encroaches – taken in 2013. There are also photo shopped images doing the rounds. One in particular of a girl in a face mask standing in water holding a koala. Old photos and incorrect maps are spreading wrong information.
Elements of the truth get mixed with enough fiction to make it seem like it could be factual. (Sounds like my story writing attempts.) The thing is, if you are reading a fiction book – you know that it is a made up story. It is concerning though that people are believing what they see on line, not realizing that much of it is also a work of fiction – it’s just not labelled as such.
Most people seem to be too busy to be bothered doing some basic research – the information looks plausible so it must be correct. But it can cause untold damage when it is perpetuated without fact checking.
As for me, I’m happy to focus on writing my ‘made-up stuff’ and when people read it – they know it is imaginary – with hopefully enough factual elements to make it sound plausible – but in the end – still a work of fiction.