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Over-elaborating research

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Aug 4, 2014.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I think as a writers we try to put as much detail into a story to make a story realistic enough for a reader to believe it, but I ask when does it become too much? When does it get to the point where it becomes unnecessary research that it's wasting time that could be spent writing?

    How do you prevent yourself from over-analyzing small details that most people reading would overlook?
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  2. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    That's a tricky one - but personally I really like good research in a story (not that it has to be obvious or laid out in the story).
    I like it when nothing jars me from reading it by reminding me that the author hasn't done his homework.

    I think it lazy and condescending to think 'well nobody really cares' or 'nobody will notice' - because some body always does.
    It's a personal hate of mine to assume that every reader has the same attitude as myself to facts - so I try (where it's necessary) to be as accurate as as possible.

    Note that this is different to a really brazen attitude that says 'I don't care about facts - just go with me' such as you get in films like 'The Core' which I can really enjoy. My annoyance is aimed at writing that 'pretends' to be researched and accurate when it blatantly isn't.

    Obviously with fantasy you have a lot more leeway than if tackling science fiction (or something historical) where you need to be more aware of what is possible or what happened. But generally my attitude is make the story fit the facts. After all we're all entitled to our own opinion - but we should all be mindful of the same set of facts.

    If there are reasons to counteract know facts then that's ok as well - but an explanation is then required.
    Jabrosky likes this.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    @Devora, what are you worried about? Is it something specific?

    I ask because the question as put is too general for me to answer usefully. How much is too much? Well, it's exactly just enough, then more.

    To put it another, equally vague, way: details in themselves are unimportant. Details that serve to make the story more engaging are good details. Details that serve no function are bad details.

    And, to complete the Vagueness Hat Trick: the author should know everything; the reader should know only what is needed. This means you will research all sorts of interesting stuff that never makes it into the story. Consider it valuable experience.
  4. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed by the level of research I need to do for certain projects. This is all the more true if I'm trying to branch out to subjects beyond my usual interests. Nonetheless, it has been my experience that research is easier to do when you define your topics narrowly. For example, you have less on your plate if you're looking for information about the floor plans of Roman villas* than if you're working with the much more generalized topic of ancient Rome.

    * I've actually spent quite a bit of time looking up building floor plans from various cultures and time periods. It's supposed to help me visualize the scenery whenever I'm writing something set in a building.
    Terry Greer likes this.
  5. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    There's only one way. Practice. Write stuff and get feedback. Then write something else. Repeat forever. This is the only way to improve your craft.

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