Research: Yah or Nah?

If you’re a normal person, you probably don’t like researching things. When you’ve taken hours and you’re elbow-deep into a puddle of somewhat useful facts, it’s easy to lose track of the point of all this research. Writers of fiction may even dismiss research as a needless task, suited to writers of nonfiction.

I think there’s something to be said for both sides. Keeping in mind that your story is a made-up one grounded in a world that is not our own, a little research goes a long, long way. Not that it’s always mandatory, but you do need to keep an eye out for when some research is needed. Sometimes it’s helpful, other times it’s gratuitous.

This is something you’re going to have to use your instincts for. As a writer, you specialize in pretending: you pretend that there’s a world out there with laser swords, space battles, and death stars, and you call it Star Wars. Then you enhance the believability around your make-believe world with credible lore, believable characters and lines, among other things.

And while it would be fun to imagine the real life out of everything, that’s when we start to get into a problem. Some writers imagine that their characters aren’t logically consistent, aren’t bound by the rules of any reality, and can generally do whatever they want. That’s called imagining your story to death, and you could say it comes from a lack of research.

Put simply: if you don’t hang around chatting human beings, you will never be able to write dialogue that we understand. It won’t be believable. A lesser writer would try to imagine how dialogue is structured, but the utter Chads would actually go and listen t real dialogue (hence, do his or her research).

Some things need to be researched; others do not. I have a friend who, when he designs fictional magic systems, he makes a point of it to make each based on a real science in our world. As a result, he tends to research quite a bit. I am less so inclined, but I want to be abundantly clear that either method is completely acceptable

But things can be overresearched as well. You don’t want everything to the point of realistic believability that it’s mundane and boring. Unless your audience is made up of a bunch of self-centered bootlickers who only stand to hear stories told about themselves, odds are they want to hear a story about exotic destinations, far away legends, and heroes far more witty than they themselves are. But, of course, this must be balanced by the believability factor.

In the end, the question posed in the beginning narrows down to time and circumstance. The purpose of research is to make something seem a bit more real, which is your job when telling stories. And it never hurt anyone to have the humility to admit that you know precious little about a certain subject.

That’s all.


Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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