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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Compare this advice offered by two bestselling authors and then take the multiple choice quiz that follows...

(a) My readers like the small bit of research I do. They don't want to be educated...

(b) All readers love to learn as they read...so choose settings that teach. Research is the most overlooked facet of writing a successful manuscript

So who am I quoting here? Pick any two... Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Arthur C. Clarke, John Locke (either one), Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling.

And who's right? As a fiction reader... do you enjoy learning as you read? Do fresh settings enrich your reading experience, or turn you off?
 

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My answer is Yes.  ;D


I don't read fiction to learn, but to be entertained.  However, I want any information in it to be true.  It jars me right out of the story when I read something historically, or culturally inaccurate. 

 

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As long as I'm not being beat over the head with unnecessary information, I'm fine with throwing in interesting tidbits.

I don't think I would have made it through 7th grade history if I hadn't been reading Gone With the Wind!  :D
 

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I read to be entertained first.  If I happen to learn something, that's fine.  It doesn't turn me off from the book, but I don't set out to find books that will teach me something.  I have a friend who does not get much enjoyment from reading just for the sake of reading and ONLY likes to read books he thinks will educate and enric him.
 

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all of the above.  i read to be entertained, to learn, to escape, to evoke deep feelings.

and sometimes all of the above at once!
 

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However, I want any information in it to be true. It jars me right out of the story when I read something historically, or culturally inaccurate.
Definitely! A friend of mine was recently reading a book that took place on Isle Royale National Park, and in the book, the author mentioned the towering mountain range on the island. As a native Michigander, I know for a fact that there are no towering mountain ranges anywhere in our state! Needless to say, both my friend and I were turned off.
 

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I think all writing should be researched. It needs to be authentic. BUT that doesn't mean all the research winds up in the story -- and certainly not in large info dumps. Still, "learning" is such a broad term. If characters model behavior, we can learn from that. It's not all about academic learning.

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of what some readers think they know -- especially where history or science is concerned -- isn't necessarily correct. A lot of books with correct information get thrown across rooms because the reader has false assumptions about the topic. It sets the author up in a no-win situation.

I can overlook a few small errors. Sometimes authors do the best research they can but still get things wrong. Not everyone can travel to Isle Royale or Rome or Istanbul to fact check ;)
 

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Not everyone can travel to Isle Royale or Rome or Istanbul to fact checkLol. True! (Though I wish I could.)

But I'm pretty sure that anyone with a remedial grasp of US geography would know that we don't have mountains in Michigan. (Even our so-called Porcupine Mountains are just oversized hills. Lovely, oversized hills, but still...)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Dan Brown - the king of research, as shown in The Da Vinci Code - has some advice regarding how much research an author needs to do.
Bingo! You got it... or at least half of it.

Quote (b) is from Dan Brown's tips on writing. All readers love to learn as they read...so choose settings that teach. Research is the most overlooked facet of writing a successful manuscript. I paraphrased two separate tips to make it. As the blog you reference mentions, the tips are now scrubbed from his site, but I downloaded them way back. They are quite lengthy compared to the snippets highlighted on that blog.

But what about the other quote? A writer on my list with a polar attitude to Dan Brown... it could only be?
 

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First quote is that of John Locke of million book fame!

I do a lot of research for two reasons: I like the research part (the learning and the ideas it spins off for characters, plots, subplots, places) and because I believe most readers like learning while having fun, provided the learning is relatively painless.

Dan Brown also believes the research information should be doled out in very little bites, so that the reader is not bored.

--- edited... no self-promotion outside the Book Bazaar forum. please read our Forum Decorum thread.
 

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I like authors to do lots of research during the planning/writing phase, but for the book not to feel like a research paper. They should know the ins and outs of what they are talking about, but it doesn't all have to reach the page directly.

For what it's worth, I do wonder if research is a dying facet of writing. I see lots of books that just aren't true to what they are trying to sell me (i.e. the story). I shouldn't know more about a subject that the writer of the book seems to, IMO.
 

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Phoenix Sullivan said:
I can overlook a few small errors. Sometimes authors do the best research they can but still get things wrong. Not everyone can travel to Isle Royale or Rome or Istanbul to fact check ;)
True... but I've found that Google Maps' Street View and Satellite Views to be handy research tools. :) Writing about somewhere you've never been? At least check out the location with those two tools, see if any glaring mistakes (or useful plot points!) jump out at you.
 

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I've had lots of readers say that they appreciate the research and detail in my historical fantasies and science fiction stories, so I think there are plenty of readers who appreciate substance alongside entertainment.
 
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The first quote is John Locke.

I don't mind how much research you put in, but I prefer that any facts be accurate (one reason I gave up on technothrillers - ones where the author forgets that computers have an off-switch and networks can be unplugged annoy me). The only exception I do make is for sensitive information: I can see why police officers or military staff may deliberately fudge details.
 

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nomesque said:
True... but I've found that Google Maps' Street View and Satellite Views to be handy research tools. :) Writing about somewhere you've never been? At least check out the location with those two tools, see if any glaring mistakes (or useful plot points!) jump out at you.
I'm reading a book just now and in one scene a person is being flown on a military jet to the Washignton DC area. . . .The detail is given that they land at Bolling AFB. I chuckled, thinking the author has never been to Bolling: there's nowhere for a jet to land; no runways, though there is a helipad. I'm thinking they meant Andrews AFB. . . .but, as you suggest. . . a quick look at Google's satellite view would have clarified which base a jet could land at.
 

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My favorite aspect of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsinger was feeling like I was actually learning how to make a drum, play a guitar, and sing with beautiful, well-supported voice tone.  I'm firmly in the "weave little bits of true information into the narrative to give it richness and depth" camp.
 

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I love both, as a reader and as an author. The secret is to absorb the new information deeply enough that it passes by almost unnoticed in the telling of the story--not an easy trick to pull off, but well worth it.
 
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