Researching your novel

The importance you place on researching your novel provides a valuable insight into how you view any potential readers. A writer who conducts meticulous research and takes the time to sift through a mountain of background information obviously wants the reader to be comfortable and able to immerse themselves in the story without being put off or interupted by any discrepancies.

It’s a sad fact that some writers assume that their readers know little or nothing about the era or subject that they choose to write about. But it goes without saying that to take such a presumptuous stance is more than a little insulting to the reader and has the potential to cause great offense.

A perfect example of this is the controversial subject of the stolen generation in Australia that I have been researching recently. The term stolen generation refers to the unknown number of aboriginal children that were forcibly removed from their parents at the behest of the Australian government. Many people today maintain that this century long policy was nothing less than a poorly disguised genocide, designed to wipe out an ancient people by striking at the racial identity of the next generation. But others vigorously deny such claims.

It doesn’t take a big step of the imagination to see what a mistake it would be to approach this topic without giving it some serious thought. Clearly it’s a sensitive issue and one that would require an enormous amount of research in order to do the subject the justice it deserves, thereby avoiding a perpetuation of the harmful misinformation that still abounds today.

To that end any meaningful research on that particular subject would have to include reading as much reliable information on the matter as possible. I have found it useful to focus on reading books and accounts written by aboriginal Australians as well as pertinent historical records. As with any other subject looking at it from as many different perspectives as you can is vital. All information must be cross checked for accuracy as one unbelievable detail can call into question everything you’ve already written and shake the readers faith in the whole narrative.

Here are just a few avenues of research you could try.

  • Television programs and documentaries
  • Libraries and museums
  • Internet search engines
  • Weather websites for meteorological conditions and climate information in certain countries
  • Wikipedia for general information
  • Maps and atlases for geographical information
  • Contacts with people who have relevant information whether in person or on the web
  • Photographs of the area or subject

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