Do Your Research – The Devil is in the Details


In my first book, Frankly Speaking, my main character, Frank Rozzani, notices someone has broken into his home. He reaches into his glove box for his Glock and proceeds inside with caution. Sounds right, doesn’t it. That’s what other characters in books, television and movies do.

GLOCK_19

In my original draft, however, I had him making sure the safety was off. When I let an author acquaintance of mine, who is retired police officer, read the book, he came to that part and let me know that a Glock doesn’t have a safety. I had no idea. I didn’t know a Glock from a hole in the wall.

This taught me a valuable lesson. I went back through that book and looked for other things. For instance, I used GPS and satellite phone technology in the book and I researched the use of these things extensively to make sure that it was accurate.

nerd

Have you ever gone to one of those comic book movies and looked around. (Wow, what a segue). I remember taking my older kids to see The Simpsons Movie at the midnight premier some years ago. We were nerdy in our Simpsons t-shirts, but we paled in comparison to the Nerd Herd that I saw near the front of the theater. They had notebooks and were making notes on all of the things they saw in the movie. I’m sure the nerdo-blogosphere blew up after that. It was the same when we went to see the last Avengers movie.

My point here is, in our Internet society, there are trolls waiting under every bridge to point out something that is wrong with your work. If you have flawless grammar, punctuation, and usage, but you didn’t know a Glock doesn’t have a safety, someone will call you on it and the credibility of your work will suffer.

I now have a cadre of people that I can call on for details. I have a friend who is an EMT/firefighter, another with extensive military background, a police detective, and various other people that can call BS on anything that I didn’t get right.

Furthermore, when I was in high school (back in the dark ages) we actually had to go to the Library to do research. My parents had an encyclopedia set that was so old, it only listed The Great War, as World War II hadn’t happened when it was published.

Now we have the Internet. That’s not to say that everything is accurate that we read on the World Wide Web. You have to know your sources. Everyone rains down on Wikipedia as being a bad source because it can be edited by anyone. That may be true, but most good Wikipedia posters have a reference section in their entry that you can use to corroborate what you find.

Sometimes researching a book makes me nervous. When I did research for Blood Orange, I had to look up facts on radioactivity, creating dirty bombs, and terrorism around the world. I fully expected black SUVs to pull up in front of my house. Luckily, this hasn’t happened (yet).

So, what am I advising in this rambling post:

  • Surround yourself with experts. Get them to validate what you write.
  • Do your research carefully. Look for respected sources on the Internet.
  • Get a second opinion. If you are writing about something scientific, try to find multiple sources or get more than one expert to look it over.

The bottom line is, if you get something wrong after doing all of this, just deal with it. The beauty of independent publishing is that you can change your work if something glaring ends up in the finished product.

We’re all human, but if you take as many precautionary steps as possible to research and check your work, you’ll avoid the Internet-troll-nerd-writer-wannabes that will trash you at every turn.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome as always.

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40 thoughts on “Do Your Research – The Devil is in the Details

  1. Great post. This reminds me of the “Fellowship of the Ring” premiere. I went to a midnight showing and there was a row of guys with the books and flashlights. They were checking as the movie played, which was really strange at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. YOu are exactly right about this, Don. I also always try to corroborate my research to a couple of sources at least to ensure the information is correct. Sometimes the information does conflict and further research must be done. Now that I am writing supernatural / horror, I also have had to research how a person dies by drowning, gun shot, hanging, etc. My browser history is also fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that the browsing history of authors is often looking dodgy. I don’t think I’ve done anything like dirty bombs or burning down houses, but I did look up about the required temperarures to burn a body on a pyre. I was writing about a Viking funeral at the time. (Not for someone who would warrant a boat funeral.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I couldn’t possibly agree with you more. It’s so important to do research. And I’ve found that most people are happy to help and share their expertise if you ask them. So find out the facts from people who are experts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the insight. There are probably “Fantasy Rules” that you’ll be accused of violating. I recently went to see Acquaman with my daughter. She’s 10 and she was questioning the validity of the science in this movie against the Marvel movies she’s seen. She actually made sense in pointing out that DC took some liberties with science in Aquaman.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A very astute young lady, sounds very much like my eldest grandson.
        When someone walks the SF path then there are all sorts of trips and traps folk will be able to pounce on. (remember the film ‘Sunshine’).
        In Fantasy as you are working outside of an environment where normal rules (as far as we know them) apply it is easier to take liberties with the laws Physical, although it does mean making your own universe and woebetide any writer who has the central character solves things with just the proverbial snap of the fingers. Rule One of Fantasy, nothing is ever achieved without an a element of pain and suffering (internal or external; even better both)

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  5. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  6. You know, I realized even in fantasy books one has to keep to certain facts. Of course, if my books were with characters spending their time on Earth I would have to stick to ‘earthly’ facts even more. But getting a fact wrong and just adding some magic to turn it the way I want it doesn’t always work – it might screw up the entire next chapter.
    I’m glad we got experts we can count on – after all, we cannot know everything!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Do Your Research – The Devil is in the Details – Written By Don Massenzio – Writer's Treasure Chest

  8. You can do your research – I thoroughly do – still there can be a detail you didn’t think about checking, just because you knew it already or it seemed too simple, it seemed a given and you had other worries in that paragraph, about more serious things that you actually researched… And guess what, exactly that little thing can end being wrong! Been there, done that, lived the shame…

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