On Writing

Research Can Be Fun!

For most people, the word “research” is a swear word. Those who have written research papers (or any kind of academic paper for that matter) know how painful research can be. But I am here to tell you that as my title states, research can be fun!

One of the things I have been really focusing on over the past couple weeks with my writing is doing research on things that would help enhance the worlds I’m building and make them more real. I’m the type of person who loves to read things that have that faint touch of reality; I try to write that way as well. But in return, that means I need to do a lot of research on those things I don’t know about. I probably haven’t won you over yet, but bear with me.

The fun part of research comes in when you are looking up things you are actually interested in, for example, your book. My story temporarily called Disconnect takes place in a futuristic society completely integrated with computers. They are so essential to their function in daily life that the computers themselves are implanted in everyone’s brains and their social life/human interaction take place entirely in virtual reality. Now, because I am dealing with a society of this nature and I’m no computer geek, I have to make sure I’m getting my research done.

For example, on the Internet I’ve created (called the Mainframe) everything takes on a physical representation. Websites show up as businesses with advertisements and buildings that people can interact with. Because computers and computer viruses, worms, spyware, and malware are synonymous I have to do research on them to figure out their functions so I can give them the appropriate physical representation when my characters run into them throughout the story. It’s been really interesting to go through and read about all the different types of viruses a computer can contract like Trojans, ILOVEYOU viruses, and other things. Quite honestly, it’s made me a little paranoid.

I’ve also been experimenting with the interaction that my characters have with this internet I created. I realized it is so large and expanding so fast that there is no way these characters would be able to find their favorite “sites”. I needed to put an address to each place on the Mainframe, soI spent one of my daily writing sessions researching the Domain Name System, how it works, what makes a domain and a subdomain and all that jazz. At the end of the session I ended up with a URL system that directly parallels our own, is different, and allows the characters to find the places they like to frequent.

Additionally, I’m dealing a little bit with hacking because my main character is a genius computer hacker. One of my good friends knows a lot about hacking, and I’ve sat down and talked to him about all the different types of hacking one can do, the way they work, and the weaknesses and strengths of each method. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’d like to learn some tricks myself to get the feel of what hacking feels like, so to speak.

As an example not related to Disconnect,  for my novel Legend I am dealing with a lot of sword fighting, battle styles, armor, weapons and an extensive amount of geography, all of which I have only a limited knowledge on. The research for this book has been admittedly more fun than for Disconnect because it forces me to get out there and experience things. I’ve another friend who is big into weapons and fighting styles, and he’s offered to give me lessons on how to use different knives and bows. It’s been so interesting to go look at the different weapon types and to learn about their different functions so that I can create my own weapons system for Legend.

See, the idea here is that you write about something that really interests you, otherwise you wouldn’t write it, right? The fun in research comes when you want to do it and genuinely desire to know more about whatever it is you’re researching. Research helps give you credibility to your readers, because they’ll believe that you actually know what you are talking about, and the great thing is you do!

Please keep in mind to make sure you are doing the right kind of research. It’s really hard to filter out the stuff that will help you and the stuff that just gets in the way. It’s like those annoying story problems in math class; you have to filter out the useless junk. There is a plethora of databases you can go to–libraries, bookstores, neighbors, friends–but really you don’t need to consult them all. Thoreau put it quite nicely when he said “It is necessary to find out exactly what books to read on a given subject. Though there may be a thousand books written upon it, it is only important to read three or four; they will contain all that is essential, and a few pages will show which they are.” The same goes for outside resources. You only need to know enough to be able to sound like you know what you are doing.

Alrighty I sure hope this helps all of you out there! My apologies for my extended silence, but good news! Disconnect is a few pages longer!

Happy writing!

ACE

1 thought on “Research Can Be Fun!”

  1. Man, I’m not gonna lie, this was something of a chastisement for me, heh heh. ;P But then again when I think about it, I’ve never really found it necessary for my current story. Probably because it’s more introspective and thematically driven than it is plot or world driven, which of course thrives off of knowledge that I already posses. I think the most research I’ve ever had to do with it was looking up Wikipedia articles about various Christian mythologies, which was most certainly quite fun in it’s own right, heh heh.

    But yeah, I guess that’s something I’d like you to think about as well whenever it is you get around to reading my story ( ;P ). I’m sure there’s something I’m overlooking when it comes to the research I could be doing, and for all I know it might even make it better than I initially thought it could be.

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