How could I go through a whole range of science-fiction topics without mentioning research? It’s the main source of nourishment and inspiration, and it can sometimes be just as fun as writing the story.
Okay, admitted, it’s also extremely easy to get lost in research, get entangled in wild speculations and come up with 10 new story ideas instead of the solution to your current story conundrum.
How much research is enough? How much is too much? And is it the right kind of research for our story?
The short answer to this is that each of us does research in his own way. Some need to go into details before they understand something well enough to feel confident putting their own spin on it. Others are satisfied with a broad picture and a few logical connections, from where they can launch into wild speculation (me, *cough*). Others are regularly jumping from one topic to the next, starting with fission reactors and ending with the Battle of Austerlitz, if they end at all. And some people are simply not researching. They’re usually the genre’s dayflies.
Some stories require a lot of research, fact-checking and calculations, especially those where an error could crush the premise and kill the entire story, while other stories only require marginal research, enough to convey some depth to the setting or character backgrounds, but nothing beyond name-dropping and casual mentions of scientific stuff. It depends on the subgenre, of course; hard sci-fi and sci-fi romance have little in common when it comes to research. Unless you write about passionate fondling of gadgetry, which is a perfectly genuine sci-fi topic if you ask me. It is!
A little research goes a long way. That’s the ultimate truth.
It can make your world seem more real if you mix facts with your inventions. It can entice readers to want to know more, and isn’t it just amazing if we can animate even a single person to go learn something new? It can be a contributing factor in the story’s uniqueness and impact, and it can open the door to subsequent elaboration in sequels or other stories. Or fan-fiction. An interesting fact is like a seed — it can always grow to become more, if it meets fertile ground. Of which we certainly have enough in our minds, we creative types. And yes, I basically mean our heads are full of dirt, and sometimes manure.
Our only law should be — We do what the story commands. Not just when it comes to research, but in general.
How much research do you usually do for your stories?
What was the weirdest thing you ever researched?
Mine was on parasitic organisms that change the behavior of their hosts, including the infamous Cordyceps that zombifies ants, which I wanted to endow an alien species of mine with as a sort of self-protection mechanism. I was fascinated by my findings, but ended up leaving it out of my story. Which isn’t to say I’ll never use the principle in the future. 😉
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This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2014.
In 2012, my R post was — Reincorporation Rocks!