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Big Ben in Berlin (why research is important)

Yvonne Knop

By Yvonne Knop

A pretty daytime long shot of Berlin with Big Ben strangly planted in the skyline!

So, do you love writing about the Renaissance yet don't personally know a white witch who lived in the 16th century and recently settled down near you after her retirement? Well, I have a suggestion to make to you: research.

Research, research, research.

Because you've no doubt read a book about a place you've been or lived, and suddenly a sentence throws you off because this is just not how that place is. I'm not talking about bad representation – we could write a whole book about misrepresentation of marginalized groups, wrongly depicted cultures, and male authors describing female body parts – but I'm talking about the description of places and things.

Now, you might think wait isn't that easy? Yes! But let me tell you, some people just don't do the extra Google image search. Describing a banana as pink and round might have worked 500 years ago and we would probably forgive the Icelandic author for describing it as such, but today we would open our Twitter and send them a picture of a banana, questioning if they have internet access (they have Twitter, so yes, they do).

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The same goes for places. If you write about a place you've never been to, contact people who did live there or even still do, or at least do an extensive research about the place – oh, hello Google maps and Google images. Don't just assume what the Brighton Pavilion looks like from the inside if you've never been inside it, because you'll be very wrong. Very wrong. It even comes down to restaurants, pubs, shops, museums, etc. Because if someone reads your book and is a regular at the place you describe – you'll get an embarrassing Twitter message.

This is also important for items, especially if your novel is set in another time period: cars, technical items, weapons, or even shoes. Museums, internet forums and libraries are a great resource if you don't have access to that aforementioned white witch. I was once put off by a period romance set in medieval times where one main character closed his pants with a zipper. Zippers didn't exist before the 1850s. It would have taken a 10 second internet research.

Last, my absolute trick: geeks. Yes, geeks. There are wonderful geeks for everything lurking around in dusty forums and Facebook groups. Go out, ask them. They won't bite.

Go that extra mile today, do your research, make your readers happy.

Yvonne is a bi and nonbinary writer who dedicates their free time to extending the secret Gay Agenda – in part through their debut novel A Case of Madness. Although born and raised in the north of Germany, Yvonne’s passion for Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, their sassy humor, and aversion to talking on public transport made them suspiciously British from early on.
Image: Berlin; Big Ben

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