As my blog readers know from previous posts, I believe in deep research for fiction, particularly historical fiction, which naturally calls for research. I’m not satisfied when others in the writing business suggest that I can get what I need on Google, Google images, Wikipedia, etc. Of course I use these tools, sometimes to get started, but more often for “place holders” to note where I need to dive into resources that will give me either answers or show me that what I propose to include in my fiction “could” have happened and is viable to include. It is fiction after all.
On Medium today, Jeff Ryan published an article on Medium: Honoring the Critical Link between Research and Creativity. https://medium.com/@19RoadsLessTraveled/honoring-the-critical-link-between-research-and-creativity-5c2dc38fe9c4
Ryan speaks about standard factual research (records, documents, etc.) which he uses extensively, but he also talks about “contextual” research, i.e., researching beyond needed facts to understand what else was going on in the worlds the characters inhabited. I’ve always thought of my research as all of a piece, but I find his separation of factual and contextual research very helpful. He also shows how the discovery of a very small detail can change the direction of a novel.
From now on, I plan to tag my “place holders” with F or C or FC to indicate the type(s) of research I need in a particular section. This will help me to decide where I need to introduce some element from world events occurring at the time my characters live, where I need backstory, where I need speculation, and so on.
Ryan says that adding contextual research to his process enables him to create more multi-dimensional characters and provide his book with urgency.
I also recommend Paddy Sutton’s Research and Creativity Go Hand in Hand. https://www.research-live.com/article/opinion/research-and-creativity-go-hand-in-hand/id/5028992 Written in 2017, Sutton, a creative director at Argo, talks about researching for ads. He believes creativity is about questioning and challenging. “As the legendary Robin Wight of WCRS advised, ‘interrogate the product until it confesses to its strength’. That’s research.” He describes research as analytical, creativity as intuitive and gives examples of how the two work together.
Perhaps that’s why I like writing. It uses my whole brain—left and right. What could be better?
I highly recommend you check out the above links. They’re quick reads and impactful.