MONDAY MUSINGS: Research! Just how far DO readers think we go?

Obviously, authors research. Even if it’s only to double check if a certain style of shoe was worn during the 1800’s (for example). It’s the research and accuracy of details that add credence to an otherwise fabricated tale.

But what happens when aspects of a book an author is asking the reader to accept are something that can’t be researched?

Or would be nobody’s business if they had been researched?

I bring this up only because of certain comments I’ve seen dotted about the ‘Net.

For the first kind, I’ll refer to a Tweet and blog post I spotted by a well known author, who felt the need to state for the record that just because she writes urban fantasy with characters who can do stuff beyond what is considered ‘normal’ for our population (NB: this is not an exact quote), that does not mean she believes herself to be superhuman.

I concur. My books are all about werewolves. Trust me: I don’t actually turn into one myself. Not on week days, anyway. ;o)

Now … how about for the second kind? It’s a constant dispute I see from those who write what I like to call romp-romance: That just because they write erotica with X-rated scenes, does not mean they lead that kind of wanton life themselves.

This second one is even harder to judge. Right? I mean, just because a writer has written this awesome scene of sexual fantasy doesn’t necessarily mean they have actually BTDT. Right? Not convinced? Okay, what about all those female erotica authors who write M/M? No way on earth could they have made that kind of research on a personal level. You following me?

So how much does the fact that these elements have to be fabricated and not be based on fact compromise the story?

Yes, yes, I know werewolves can be researched. But not on your nelly can one research the process of a werewolf Change. OR the sensations one must endure to alter their physical structure by that amount. So we have no choice but to make it up. See?

Just as the (to keep my reasoning solid) latter mentioned for the romp-rom writers. No woman can ever fully understand how it feels to a man during intercourse, just as a man could never grasp the experience through a woman’s eyes. They would have only verbal or visual research for guidance.

But should, really, these writers actually be concerned by such comments that have incited these responses?

Or should they be flattered?

Surely, for the reader to believe the author had to have experienced these acts themselves should mean the author has done a bang up job in their portrayal of them.


What are your thoughts on author research? How far do YOU think they should go? Or is majority-fabrication acceptable so long as it’s done well?


14 thoughts on “MONDAY MUSINGS: Research! Just how far DO readers think we go?

  1. I agree with you, there are some pieces that warrant research – like knowing how police might approach an investigation into a murder or process forensic evidence (if you don’t already have an idea from all the countless crime shows on tv – and if thats not the focus) but it would make for a lot of boring reads if we all researched, using your example, how one changes into a werewolf.  It is that unique spin that sets the story apart.  And incorporating *some* personal experiences enhances it even more.  I’ve never changed into a werewolf, but I do know the excruciating pain of a changing body (labor).  So perhaps I might draw from those memories to create a *more* realistic experience for the reader.

    1. Ha! Actually, I can’t recall if the reference is still in D&L or not, but it certainly was in the original draft, but Jem did liken changing to what she’d heard about childbirth–that each time gets a little easier to handle because you know what you’re dealing with. But yeah, I’d imagine the pain of childbirth to pretty much be on par with changing–depending on how tenuous a childbirth you had. 🙂

  2. I think that some research should be conducted (this includes reading previous works on the said subject) to see if your ideas are consistent across the board. I think that’s an issue Stephanie Meyers had with glittering vampires. Our ‘knowledge’ of them until that point was that vampires couldn’t go in the sun at all and their skin certainly didn’t glitter. I think it still puts readers off because it breaks the ‘norm’.

    Even with fantasy writers comes knowledge of spells. We have to understand potions and amulets, terminology surrounding spells, charms, enchantments, etc. Most knowledge, I think, comes from reading your genre to know what’s been done and hasn’t been done. The rest is completely up to the writer to find that ‘edge’ that hasn’t been traveled. To find that ‘thing’ that makes the story unique – like glittering vampires.

    As to erotica? hee hee. I think ALL of our minds can get into some pretty kinky stuff if we want to go there. The problem is not whether you can dream it…it’s whether you can write it and write it well.

    1. I’ve never written a kinky word in my LIFE! O_O

      I totally agree with readers having a hard time with stuff taken too far from their pre-conceived notions. However, I’ve read quite a few different werewolf novels now, and I love to come across one where the pack politics go a slightly different route–so long as they aren’t absurd. <<actually, I think that might be the key: finding the balance between breaking the mould and being ridiculous. 🙂

  3. Interesting angle. I agree that I am left with the impression that most scenes have been enjoyed by the author in some way first, then expressed later. Too funny, cuz, I too live a completely different life than my characters.

    So jealous. They have more fun, more adventures, and definitely more sex. 🙂


    1. Oh, trust me: my characters have waaaaaay more excitement in their lives than me. A story based on my own occurrences would likely put readers into a coma, lol. 🙂

  4. Bless you 🙂
    I always believed in the “write what you know” dictum (OK that was ages ago!), but in any kind of fantasy the imagination has to play a major part!

    Which is why I read Fantasy in the first place – there are so many differing views on how vampires cope with the sun; how werewolves overcome the challenge of the ‘change’; how ‘magic’ reacts in a ‘normal’ world; which paranormal attributes work (or don’t); the list goes on……

    I DO NOT judge an author by how they describe various things – that’s the imagination coming to the forefront – but I do relish different ‘takes’ on how things happen. Some are plausible; some laughable; but that’s the enjoyment of reading Fantasy in whatever guise – and I’m very open to how authors manage to develop their ideas 🙂

    I’m deep in the current vogue for YA angels – and the possibilities they’ve written could produce an immense thesis (should I wish to bother!) – but, really, all I’m looking for is to be entertained; and I get it in spades!

    Research is a necessity, but imagination rules!

    1. Pretty much on par with me, by the sounds of it. All I ask is to be suckered in and transported into someone else’s world for a little while. If they pull that off, I’m a goner. 🙂

  5. This is without doubt the biggest dilemma for those of us who wish to be taken seriously. On the one hand writing romance, erotica or fantasy leaves you on somewhat shaky ground as far as literary credibility goes but on the other you can still attempt accuracy in the application of your imagination, I grew up reading Georgette Heyer and Louis Lamour, two authors renowned for the accuracy of the environment they wrote about. The first did copious amounts of research into everything from fashion to cant terms and battle history and the latter’s characters existed in a landscape he could personally describe. I have had to accept personally that not everyone can afford the time or grey matter to achieve that level of credibility. My personal belief is that you should do enough research that your story is plausible to your target audience and accept that the fanboys/girls of certain genres will from time to time pick you up on unintended errors and even occasionally object to your suppositions. In the end are you a academic or a story teller?

  6. Very nice, ma’am. I had a similiar dilemma on my blog. Just because you write it, doesn’t mean you’ve experienced it. Elsewise, we wouldn’t have urban fantasies with fantastic creatures that may or may not exist. Or how about different flora and fauna in fantasy books. There are some elements that, also, need to be left out. Don’t want to give some looney a recipe to make a homemade grenade or anything.

    Books are magic. About the only thing you can’t fudge, like I beleive you said, are real world things. I mean, really, there’s a lot a made up things in the writing world.

    Men worrying about women getting pleasure the first time, for example. *cough*

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