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Romantic Suspense and Research

 
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Anne Marble



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 599

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:00 pm    Post subject: Romantic Suspense and Research Reply with quote

Recently, I listened to recorded sessions from the 2007 RWA convention. During these discussions, some romantic suspense authors talked about the extensive research they did, and some had on-the-job experience or relationships with professionals in the investigative fields. But quite a few authors talked about doing most of their research on-line, or at least alternating between Google and a few reference books. This surprised me because romantic suspense is one field where I'd expect more research, especially as so many of these books have plots involving cops, the FBI, etc. But reading some recent thrillers, I've wondered if "research by Google" is prevalent in all fields, and not just in romantic suspense (which the heavily research books end up being dull.

Do you think this shows in the books themselves, or do the authors get away with it as long as they keep it interesting? Is the amount of research only a factor for you if you notice an error? On the other hand, because some authors do a lot of in-depth research, they want to make sure you know that they know this stuff, so they'll bog the book down with details. Have you ever ended up entangled in a book where you wish the author didn't care so much about her research? :)

Also, do you think "Research by Google" is as prevalent as the authors make it sound, or were they just simplifying what they do? At the same convention, there were lots of detailed lectures about nitty gritty research into everything from body disposal to serial killers, so obviously, plenty of authors are really into research.

Also, what about mistakes that aren't? Even authors who do a lot of research are often wrongfully accused of making mistakes. Let's say they base their work on what they know is how a murder case is handled in Topeka. They're likely to get letters accusing them of making errors because someone in Wichita handles procedures differently. Rolling Eyes Sometimes it seems you can't please anyone Smile
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 783

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, Google is certainly a handy place to start, and with reasonable care you can get a lot of information there especially if you know something about the subject in the first place.

I would imagine that the Internet is particularly useful for those who do not have a fortune to spend on books and do not have access to a university or similar library. I am very fond of my local public library, and it is a very good one, but if I want to research anything in depth I have to ask them to borrow books for me from a university library. If you can't do that, you're kind of stuck, aren't you?
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Anne Marble



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 599

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JaneO wrote:
Well, Google is certainly a handy place to start, and with reasonable care you can get a lot of information there especially if you know something about the subject in the first place.


Yeah, it's a good start. I sure wish I'd had it in high school, when I tried to write a novel about a medical examiner. (To date myself, it was inspired by the Quincy TV show. Laughing ) I'm just afraid that some authors are relying on it too much. They forget that just because it's on-line, that doesn't mean it's true.

On the other hand, some authors may not be relying on it enough. How often do we hear complains from readers that an author got a simple detail wrong in a setting? I don't expect writers to visit the places they write about (they can't afford to and they don't have the time). But could they at least try to use Google Maps? ;)

Edited to Add:
Maybe the issue is not that some authors rely a lot on Google for their research -- it's that beginning writers research too much. There are a lot of "how to write" books out there stressing the importance of research. While research is important, some authors get carried away with it. After all, if the latest book on writing best-sellers says that you must read two books about the history of the town Chapter Three is set on, why not read six books about it? Never mind that the characters spend all of ten pages there. It's too easy to get caught up in intensive research and forget to write the actual book, or worse, wind up writing a dull book. Rolling Eyes

JaneO wrote:
I would imagine that the Internet is particularly useful for those who do not have a fortune to spend on books and do not have access to a university or similar library. I am very fond of my local public library, and it is a very good one, but if I want to research anything in depth I have to ask them to borrow books for me from a university library. If you can't do that, you're kind of stuck, aren't you?


I remember the first time I got to visit a university library. My local library had a couple of general books on forensics, but the university library had detailed text books on forensics. However, I didn't have a card. Sigh. Maybe that's why I gave up and started writing SF and fantasy. Very Happy
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I once lived near Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson specified that the library was to be open to all residents of Virginia. What bliss! Would that all university libraries did likewise.
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 396
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I attended a chat with a number of military romance writers and they talked about the part research, both online and in life. They all preferred life research, but some things you just can't do. When researching, any writer worth her salt knows you double and triple check things. Books can be wrong too.

You'd be surprised how much time we spend discussing logistics. I have a friend who's writing a historical set in China and we spend a lot of time discussing saddles.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading this thread brought one of Iris Johansons' books to mind, the title of which I can't recall. The heroine had trained a pair of dolphins with unusual abilities. I think those abilities had some basis in fact, but whether they did or not was of less importance to me as a reader than how what she wrote contributed to the tale she told. I'd rather the facts be shaded than impede the tale.
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