Research and checking things

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Something that recently joined Colonist Potboiler said in their introductory greeting set my brain buzzing :

'The freedom of not having to check facts and having to document and reference everything is very appealing!' (referring to creative writing.)

It made me wonder if it would be possible for me to write a story without needing to check some fact or other. I've certainly written poems without worry that I've made an error, but even then there can be hyperlinks to references for the curious reader.

My shortest short story is called Soul-Swapping, and is 3,120 words. It's about a damned demon who is being used to swap souls in modern-day London, as part of a dominant hell-hag's fixing of a bet she's made with another wraith. The story is more humorous than scary in tone, and is more a comment on the transience of celebrities than a horror story. Even though it's short, I still needed to check on how criminals were executed in the nineteenth century, which is how my hero ends up in hell.

Perhaps a story that's solely about relationships, with plenty of conversation in it, would avoid the need to check facts - it would be pure in that way.

Have any Colonists written anything without the need to consult the internet?
I will admit my ms is purely fantasy, it's not based on any real world items, places or people, so very little research needed for the first few drafts. The only thing I've had to check with it is some grammar rules and writing guidelines. My next book will still be fantasy but more magic based, so I'll be researching some pagan, wiccan and witchy beliefs and rituals.
Even in a fantasy world though you have to keep things consistent. You might not incorporate any systems from our own world, but I would think you'd still need to write all that down about the world you created to refer to it.

I wrote an alternate universe as the setting for one of my series as Tara Rose, so I had everything in a Word doc. Kingdoms, political systems, history of who did what to whom and why, what happened as a result, lineage of various ancestors of the heroes of each book, etc. I even drew a map. It might not be research in terms of looking things up, but a lot of prep work goes into something like that.

For another series I had the books take place on a fictional island in the Gulf of Mexico, and I blended magic from various belief systems native to the Caribbean islands and Central American countries. Plenty of research there, and I had an entire ecosystem and history of the self-sustaining island to write down before I began. The two families that made up the heroes of the eleven book series had a convoluted history and I needed a spreadsheet to keep track of them all, their parents, their grandparents, and their great-grandparents to make sure I hadn't paired up a hero and heroine who were related as first cousins or worse. LOL!!
I've only had two. One of my short stories about an eight year old superhero didn't require any research, and another short story about a man and his brother trying to escape from a cult. Most everything else, I've had to look up at least one thing - even if it was small.
Being human, no single person knows everything about everything. As human writers, everything we do tends to be human-based (human writer, human reader, human understanding) so there is always a lot of planning and imagination that goes into everything we write. Research, to me, is that planning. Checking facts, where you need to add them, determining if the story has already been told by someone else, plotting all the death and destruction, character names, titles, etc. To get someone to read what we write, there has to be something that they can identify with, on some level. All of it takes notes, notes, and, once you're tired of taking notes, even more notes. IMHO you'd have to be one really smart cookie to write something that didn't require research of some kind. I took what Potboiler said as the lack of listing references and the need to put in all the footnotes (I used to get so tired putting in "ibid").
I check things because I can. Easily. If I had to trek to the library each time to check stuff, I wonder if I would bother?
It's about a damned demon who is being used to swap souls in modern-day London, as part of a dominant hell-hag's fixing of a bet she's made with another wraith.

Apart from perhaps checking the geography of Londons streets, where could you look to 'research' this? The House of Commons, I suppose...
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