Knowledge - writercize #180 #AtoZChallenge

In writing, as in much of life, it is important to have at least a basic knowledge of what you are talking about.

Journalists must interview subjects and research the background of a story. Non-fiction writers need to thoroughly examine their topic's history, influences, major players, current trends. 

Even fiction writers need to understand what their character experiences, whether it be a thorough knowledge of the city they live in or the job they possess. A novel set in New York will look and sound different from a novel set in Moscow. An ice cream truck driver has a different set of experiences and industry lingo from an accountant. If the writer is not intimately familiar with such details, s/he should research, ask questions and acquire the necessary knowledge.

Knowledge makes a story believable.

One friend of mine wrote her novel set in a town in England, despite never having set foot in the town. How did she do it? Google Maps street view. Upon finishing the novel, she celebrated with a visit to the town and found a couple of alterations still needed to be made to be realistic to the town's design, but her research gave her a step up in bringing the town to life.

Your first draft may not require heavy research. You may be the type of writer who just goes for it, lets your fingers do the story-telling and send your brain in to edit later. That is fine. You can get the story out and go back to legitimize the details later. Just make sure you get the research done before you go so far as to submit a query.

The lovely thing about research and acquiring knowledge is that even when you don't have a story in your mind or on paper, the simple act of researching something that you are interested in can spur a story or a character.

Writers are lucky people in that way! We can spend our day as chameleons, all in the name of research. Interested in candle making? Take a class or visit an artisan! Want to know about weather patterns in the South Pacific? Google it! Need to reference a famous artist's work? Go to the museum! Need to know about sailing? Find the blog of an around the world sailing enthusiast.

Absorb everything around you, and seek out information. Ask people you meet about their lives and what they care about. It will help your work.

Today, I encourage you to take the day off writing and do some research instead.

writercize: Pick a topic that interests you, but you do not know much about, and research it. 

If you are currently working on a novel or non-fiction work, look for a way to re-energize it with additional knowledge on the subject.

One word to the wise - approach your research, particularly that on the internet, with a grain of salt. If something doesn't make sense, ask yourself why and keep looking.

Good luck, and enjoy learning!


  1. Great post - and I agree that knowing a place can help you to bring it alive for your reader. It's occupations I have to research - my last hero was a volcanologist, my current one is an animal vet - and I am learning so mcuh as a I find out about their work!

  2. That's what I love about writing- we learn so much in the process about such a wide variety of stuff.

  3. Google Earth is a great option as well. The WIP I'm currently editing has part of it set on Kaua'i which I've visited several times (my daughter and her family live there). But when I was writing one particular scene I needed to provide more detail, so I used GE to remind me what was on the road from the house to the beach.

    Really made me want to go back!

  4. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing, I find sometimes it can change my entire perspective about something. And it really helps when I am stuck.

  5. You are so wise! I am your newest follower!

  6. Google street view is awesome! I've been using it a lot with my current work which takes place in lots of places I haven't been. It's been super helpful.

  7. I seem to do this every week with the various writing groups. I can't say I go in depth, but I always seem to find some way to use it.

  8. I'm constantly amazed at how much research I have to do for fiction writing.

    Catch My Words

  9. So right you are! For fiction to be interesting, there should be something there that rings true!
    Best wishes,
    Anna's A-Z, the letter M

  10. When I first started writing I learned I should only write what I know about. Well that was boring! Thank goodness I paid that spot of advice no mind whatsoever. Since then I've delved into professions and lives I'd have had no idea about before. Great post - it makes me think. (popping in from the A-Z)

  11. Knowledge is definitely important, and I rely on Google Maps as well when I research places. However, on the flip side, there is always the danger of over-researching, where you spend to much time researching and not enough time actually writing, and sometimes you're so dying to include everything you've researched into your work that you rish info-dumping. As with everything, moderation is key.

    Glad I hopped over!

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

  12. I do 20th century historical, and I love researching my chosen eras. No matter how long I've been reading and writing about the 1920s, 20th century Russian history, World War II and the Shoah, the 1960s, etc., there are always new details to discover and weave in.

    My current WIP features a young man who severely breaks his foot and ankle and develops a permanent limp. I actually wrote that limp and the reason behind it into his characters some years back, little knowing I'd one day have my own limp or that I'd decide to put the focus on him for his own book. I don't think I could depict some of the things related to his injury, recovery, and emotional feelings over having a limp if I hadn't been there and done it all myself. How, for example, would I have known that it's easier to go upstairs backwards and hopping on one foot in the early months after your splint is off?

  13. Very helpful. It's true, the internet can be so helpful when gleaning valuable info to add to a WIP. Nice blog!

  14. Good advice, there's nothing worse than picking up a book and then discovering that some crucial fact is wrong.

  15. I'm addicted to research and think I probably always have been! So crucial for an author. Really loved your entry and your blog as well.

    If you've the chance, pop over to mine, and see what you think. I'm the award winning author of the Bella and Britt series for kids.

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. I'm about to dive into a bunch of research and I'm both dreading it and looking forward to it, if that's possible.
    I like your blog!

  17. I do a lot of research. That's probably why I don't get as much blogging done as I should. I can get lost in looking up stuff and looking in a road atlas to be where I'm writing about. I want what I say to be accurate.

    Places I Remember
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  18. I do research often for my blog and other writing assignments but strangely enough, not always when I'm writing my screenplays. If research is necessary for a script, I do it but usually only when it's necessary. I'd rather just write it all out, adjust to my liking and then show it to a professional who is related to the subject covered in my work. For example, if I want to make a movie about psychologists, I'd probably do some light research but not extensive research, write the script and then give it to a psychologist or a psychology professor to read and let me know what is accurate as it relates to the jargon, methods they use, environment, etc. and then I would make further adjustments from there.

    Research for screenplays? Nah...you don't need no stinkin' research, lol (at least not for the first few draft ;) or two). That's what Technical Directors are for! Right? LOL.

    Blog: The Madlab Post
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

  19. I've been doing a lot of research on Bible characters during the challenge! It's so much fun! I'm learning and sharing and just plain uplifted :)


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