by Michael A. Black
When it comes to research, it’s mostly fun for me. There is a small portion that I consider burdensome, but that only has to do with striving to get all the details right. It seems no matter how conscientious you are, there’s always somebody somewhere who’ll find a mistake and then let you know about it. That’s why I try as hard as I can to do enough research, but I also make a customary admonishment that a healthy does of “Artistic License” was involved in the writing of the piece. There are some writers who do virtually no research at all, and fall back on the excuse that they’re writing fiction, thus there’s no need to get it right. That’s their prerogative, but for me that excuse is another term for lazy writing. Like I said, I may not get all the details right in my fiction, but I give it my best shot.
One of the problems with researching in today’s world is that we’ve all grown too dependent on the Internet. The convenience and speed with which information is available at your fingertips is amazing, but it’s wise to remember that you shouldn’t take everything you find on the Net as gospel. That’s why I always try to mix it up a bit, using other sources. Magazines, especially National Geographic, have long been a standard source of research for me. So are videos and books. One of my first stops when beginning the research on a new project is the Public Library, where I head to the desk of the Research Librarian. I can’t say enough good things about libraries or librarians. I love them to pieces. I wrote my first two manuscripts sitting at a desk in the library for about three hours a night. I often wondered what the librarians thought I was doing, sitting there scribbling furiously each evening. I recall finishing one chase scene that I thought was pretty darn exciting. I was really getting involved in it, and kept writing faster and faster. When I finished, I was literally out of breath. I looked up and saw two librarians staring at me with curiosity. I grinned and shrugged and gathered up my stuff. Needless to say, I hope they didn’t think I was writing erotica.
Usually, when I’m researching something, I get so involved in the process that a bunch of ideas for new stories occur to me. That’s why I always keep a notebook handy and scribble down these errant thoughts, and more than once they’ve developed into a new, full scale project. I think that’s why researching has always been so much fun for me. I look on it as an adventure, not a chore.