Welcome Text

Welcome! Books, movies, music, original stories, interviews, writing, libraries, literacy, humor –all with the YA reader in mind, are just a few of the topics you’ll find here. New to the blog? Say hi! Like it? Follow away! Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Research: Writing with an authentic voice

by J.R. Wagner

Trinity Library, Dublin Ireland (been there, such a cool place!)

I've been asked on numerous occasions how much research goes into writing.  Many people believe because I write fiction, I can simply make it up as I go.  This couldn't be further from the truth.

Just because the story isn't true, the characters aren't real or the setting is a place from my imagination doesn't mean I can simply wing the entire writing process.

I'll give you my most recent example:

I just completed a novella set in the mid 1800's. The first thing I researched was the geography of the setting at that time.  Where there any towns in that area?  What was the landscape like? What was the population of the town?  How did they get around? (horseback, cars, bicycles)

The story took place in a country estate. What were the buildings like in that time period? What were the grounds like? What were the indigenous species of plant-life in the gardens? What was the layout of the house?  Where was each room located and what was it called? (we don't have sculleries and larders in our homes today) What about the furniture? How did they dress? What type of money did they use? What books were popular?

Why is any of this important?  It gives the narrative authenticity. If you want to immerse your readers into a particular time period, they have to believe, down to the last detail that they are in that time period.

Be careful not to detract from what drives all great stories -the characters and the plot.  Allow the characters and plot to move the story forward through this authentic world you've created.  Do not allow your overly authentic world to slow the progression of the story just to show off the fact that you've done your research. Plot and character progression always come first.

Some writers will research before they ever put pen to paper.  I am the opposite. I'll write my first draft and include notes to myself to go back and look something up. I let the plot and characters take charge and follow with a second pass to do the research.

For example: Billy made his way to his bedroom (check)  fussing with his jacket (check)  (type of chair?)before slumping in the fireside chair and picking up a copy of Harry Potter. (check)

Turns into: Billy made his way to his bedchamber fussing with his waistcoat before slumping in the the Regency Giltwood armchair and picking up his copy of Emma.

Bedrooms were called bedchambers during that time period.

English manor house bedchamber

 The attire of the day for a man
included a waistcoat.
The Regency Giltwood armchair was a popular piece of furniture in both time and place
Regency Giltwood Armchairs

Emma, the popular novel by Jane Austen was first published in 1815 in the United Kingdom

Where did I find all this information?  Did I google it?  Wikipedia?

I typically use google and Wikipedia to help narrow my search for better information.  Through those searches I discovered a treasure trove of books on the topics I required.

Here are a few:

Clearly, regardless of your genre,  a good author does the necessary research to help immerse the reader into the world they are creating.


To purchase Exiled, bid on the movie rights, hire me as a writer for the next Blade Runner film, the next Star Wars film...for videos, fan art, contests and more, visit my website!

In bookstores now


  1. I just completed a novella set in the mid 1800's. The first thing I researched was the geography of the setting at that time.

  2. Congratulations on finishing your novella! I wish you much luck.