Monday, 3 October 2011

Researching Fiction on Fiction

Our reading experience would be incredibly boring if writers only wrote what they knew. There may be the odd cop, neurosurgeon or serial killer who may be a dab hand at writing, but not enough to keep us reading on the edge of our seats on a permanent basis. Which means, most writers write what they don't know. Which means a whole lot of research.

And I've been thinking...

With my historical stories, I take research seriously. I tend to devour biographies of the period, read historical anals that have most fortunately been digitised in these times, and get my teeth into all sorts of other research material.

But with contemporaries, is it another matter? Now, it's all very well if you can go and live with the wolves for a year or have the time and clout to shadow a detective around for a year (Castle, I'm looking at you). I don't know of too many authors who have that kind of time, and I don't know of too many businesses that have a 'Bring your writer acquaintance in for the day' programs.

Which makes it kind of hard for the average writer to get real life experience. Of course, there's all kinds of serious research that can still be done, but it's just so much more fun to watch TV for research. So what if they get it wrong? Their millions of viewers don't seem to mind.

I somehow doubt any viable police force will allow a writer the kind of access to the offices, inside info and crime scenes that Richard Castle has on Castle.

I somehow doubt that many police forces rely on medical examiners to actually solve their case for them (Body of Proof) each and every time.

And I somehow doubt than many hospitals are as dysfunctional as Grey's Anatomy.

But that's just it... I somehow doubt, but I don't really, really know. And to be honest, I don't really care. Most of the shows would be boring as hell if they were realistic.

Which brings me back to the hot pickle question on my mind today. Do we want more realism in our books than we're prepared to laugh off in TV?