Alright. So, I’m sure I’ll regret posting this in approximately 2.5 months when my first book is released, but it needs to be said. Research—ya gotta do it. It doesn’t matter if you write fantasy or historical fiction, research is necessary.
(And this is the part of the post when I go off on a tangent rant. Just follow along. There’s probably a point.)
In my normal routine, I don’t watch much television. But, when I do, I like to go on a total binge with a series and watch entire seasons back to back. I recently got hooked on a series called Falling Skies. It’s a post-apocalyptic science fiction series centered on a family surviving an alien invasion. (It’s awesome, and I totally recommend it in spite of what I’m about to say.) Now, you might think that there wouldn’t be much research to be done going into this since there haven’t yet been any alien invasions to base events on, but research goes deeper than that. There are undertones in the series paralleling the new United States to the beginning of the original US in the Revolutionary War. Those facts? To my knowledge, they got them right. Good research, Falling Skies writers! But, then we follow this family into South Carolina—my home state. This is where they could have done more research.
They had me totally invested in the story until they introduced a new character to the plot—an engineer in charge of the power. Fine. Not a problem. Then they say he was an engineer from the University of South Carolina…*sound of giant wrong buzzer* USC is a school for business, medicine and law. I know this because I’m from Columbia, SC. If this character had a background in engineering from anywhere in South Carolina, it would be from Clemson—the engineering and agricultural university in the state. This could have been researched online! It’s not that big a detail, but to those who are native to the Palmetto State, it’s a giant problem. Maybe this is my issue, as the granddaughter of a former dean at Clemson, the daughter of a Physics grad, sister of an engineering grad and just general Clemson fan. But, when we write stories, we have to expect that someone out there reading will be from the place we’re writing about or have a brother who has the same occupation as our hero. Research, research, research!
I once read a contemporary romance about a general contractor and a civil engineer. In one scene, the civil engineer heroine was driving an excavator on a job site while the hero watches her from the job site trailer. Hit the breaks—I have a background in construction, and this would never happen. It’s details like this that rip the reader from the story.
All of this being said, did I mess up some historical detail in my debut Regency? Most likely. I’m not perfect. But, I did try to research everything, and that Bad Girlz of the world is all we can do.
Research…let’s discuss it.
~ E. Michels