The secret pleasures of Research

You may write contemporary fiction. You may write historical adventure. You may even write romance – in any of its forms. What all of these options have in common is – research! You cannot contain all you need to know in your brain so – whether internet, library, bookshop, friend’s bookcases – you have to go somewhere to find out what you need to know.

In my case, one area of particular interest to me is 18th Century France and Scotland. So – with this in mind – I am preparing a list of the books I consulted while writing ‘The Wolf of Dalriada’ and which I will post on this website in due course.

However, here are a few pointers for your own research. Go-to sources include:

  • visiting locations
  • libraries for goverment reports and documents
  • contemporary newspaper archives
  • diaries
  • maps
  • fashion plates
  • recipes
  • laws
  • medical papers and practices
  • essays on contemporary social conditons such as prison
  • biographies and memoirs

But make notes as you go. it’ll save you an afternoon searching for that one particular fact.

And, when you have imbued yourself with the period and you begin to write your story, remember to stick to the plot. You may find all sorts of facts fascinating but, if they care about anything at all, your reader will quite simply want to know what is going to happen to your characters. That is not denigrating the ‘setting’ – time and place. It is simply controlling these story elements in a role subservient to the story.  You are after all telling a story. Not educating the reader!

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About Elizabeth Gates

When I was four, I wrote my first story - mainly because no-one else had written the story I wanted to read. Later, with two degrees in English Language & Literature and Linguistics, I toured Europe as a creative writing tutor and then went on to work as a public health journalist for twenty-five years. Writing has always played a huge part in my life, coupled with history and travel. So my debut novel, The Wolf of Dalriada, seems a natural part of my progression through life. And when not writing, l like to spend time with my family and friends and the livestock that delights in trailing after me.