Writers’ Corner: Do your research

It’s Halloween, so today’s blog is a short and sweet one.

Originally, I had a much longer plan to write about characters, but then I stumbled across something that got my back up in a book I’m reading … and it sparked the need for a Don’t Do This post.

What did I see? Well, it’s really a question of what I didn’t see: I didn’t see evidence that the writer of a bestselling book did research. Research on something key to the story. Research on something that would have been so, so, so easy to find, either online or with one simple phone call.

"RESEARCH" written in Scrabble tiles

I’m not going to call out the book. Suffice it to say that it’s a book that was traditionally published with a lot of pre-publication support by the publisher and has had a long shelf-life on the bestseller lists. And this isn’t a situation wherein the author intentionally changed things up (for example, creating an investigative agency specifically so that the book didn’t have to conform to the rules of the FBI, or “inventing” a gizmo that the government secretly uses but doesn’t actually exist). No, this mistake is a basic one at the heart of a sporting activity. Something that one call to an instructor in that sport could have fixed. One visit to a storefront specializing in that activity.

And yet it’s clear from the mistakes in the story that the author did neither of those things. These weren’t intentional adjustments of reality to serve the story. They were simply mistakes.

So, writers: Don’t do that. Do your research. Mistakes happen, sure. But if you put in a little bit of time and effort, they’ll happen a heck of a lot less.

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