Writers need to do research before they write. This statement seemed like a no-brainer to me until I met a writer at an open critique once who told me that she had no idea what her character (who was a doctor) should do in some emergency situation, so she just synopsized.
Unfortunately, the reason the subject came up at all was the fact that it was just not the place for synopsis. She had led us all to this big juicy climax and as a reader, I felt beached when she just summed up the action in a few short sentences. I told her she needed to call a few doctors and figure out what the character should be doing. She wasn’t a happy camper–calling someone and asking them questions about a scene you’re writing means telling someone are a writer, which as we’ve discussed in this very place can be difficult. But she did it and her work was better for it.
I’ve heard every excuse in the book for not researching from–“It’s fiction, people!” from a woman who couldn’t be bothered to get the direction of a well-known Chicago street right, to “I invented this world.” from a Sci-fi writer whose world didn’t conform to the laws of gravity. This kind of laziness does not hold up, folks.
On the other blog I write on, Make Mine Mystery, we had a guest blogger this week talking about witnessing an autopsy to add realism to his writing. Let me make it clear to you folks, I have yet to go that far in my search for realism.
I do believe in research though so I have called the fire department (many times) to get help with a fire that broke out in the battered women’s shelter that is the setting for my books. I have attended a citizen’s police academy and shot guns–something this pacifist never thought to do. I have ridden on ride alongs with my local police,(my city lets any citizen do this a couple of times a year.) and I have spoken with an FBI crime scene expert (the husband of a writer in my local writer’s group) to get advice on blood spatter.
I won’t kid you–some of the research was more fun than the writing! And some of it was darned depressing. But when you are writing about something that you are sure about factually, you come across more easily. And there is no substitute for that.