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?

8 comments:

  1. I work in a hospital, and although there are some dysfunctional things that occur, Grey's Anatomy drives me crazy. I couldn't watch it anymore after the first seasons when Izzy manipulated the organ transplant system by cutting the cord on that guy's heart pump. Uh, not gonna happen. Ever. Then again, the day to day workings of a hospital are pretty boring, so a little suspension of disbelief is important to make it entertaining. But it's got to have a nugget of truth.

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  2. Bring A Writer To Work Day? Love that. All I can say is thank gawd for the Internet and GoogleEarth. It's the next best thing to being there.

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  3. I'm always so envious of Castle. I'd love to trail the detectives on a juicy murder investigation. Sadly, that's unlikely to happen so I rely on the Internet and, um, TV shows for research. :)

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  4. Julie, while I love Grey's Anatomy, that season made me crazy and I don't even have a clue as to what actually goes on, so can imagine how much it must have frustrated you

    Liz, all I can see is, Google Earth! Yes!

    Shirley, nice to know I'm not the only one who uses research as an excuse to watch TV :)

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  5. my series on post climate change was pretty easy to research - stone age agriculture - different temperature zones, landmines /wars all out there - the one I'm trying for naNo I have google appropiate places maybe on google earth and am busy visint them in person the rest well imagination is grand!!!

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  6. You make some interesting points here... I don't know why but for some reason I think I expect novels to be more accurate. Maybe because I get annoyed with the inaccuracies in TV shows and in my mind "the book is always better", so therefore it should be more accurate. But then, I read mainly fantasy so this isn't something I think about very often!

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  8. This is a really good point. I think in books we expect more realism for some reason. I'm not sure why. For instance, on the TV cop shows, their technology is soooo far fetched with all the see through screens that they stand in front of moving things around with the touch of their finger. Do you think police stations can really afford that great of technology yet, I doubt it. But when I am writing (even contemporary) I feel like I have to be pretty accurate.

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