Research

Her majesty was in residence, but did not invite us for tea. Smart, her majesty is. (I'm a slob.)
Her majesty was in residence, but did not invite us for tea. Smart, her majesty is. (I’m a slob.)

A few weeks ago I mentioned that if you research something, you’ll know it, so then you can write what you know. Is that true? You can research anything and learn it? Well . . .

On a Sophomoric level, sure. You can’t ever really learn something without immersing yourself in whatever it is for long enough to figure it out. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. But . . .

You’re writing about something, and that’s just was Sophomores do best, isn’t it? so, friends, in terms of being able to write about a given activity, yes, yes you can research a topic and learn enough to write about it.

Because, of course, firemen, widows, children, Australian Aboriginal shamans, Vlad Putin, you, me, and everybody else have common motivations and needs. We all want to eat at regular intervals. We all want shelter. We all want some degree of companionship (although if you’re introverted you prefer to be in control of that degree to a large extent, don’t you?) We want our kids if we have them to be able to get ahead as they live their lives, to enjoy things, and not to get hurt. We want to make enough money to live well. We want, well, you’re a human, you tell me what humans want, okay.

My point being that if you have a Sophomoric knowledge of fire fighting, you have enough information to write about a fire fighter as a supporting character, at least. If your villain is an accountant, you can learn enough about what accountants do day to day to draw a realistic picture of one as an antagonist. Now, maybe, if want your main protagonist to be, for example, a Las Vegas bookie, you’ll need to get to know at least one Las Vegas bookie, maybe follow them around on the job, because your main hero is featured in some depth. That’s what Ed McBain did to write his famously excellent police procedurals, after all. That may be true of your main villain, also, but it seems to me to be less likely in that case.

But, my point still stands: even if you have to learn to be a bookie to write your bookie properly, you can do it. Once again, I stress, you can learn what you need to know, but you must always write what you love.

Ciao!