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The role of research in fiction and non-fiction writing

A woman holding an open book while books fly around her

I love to research. So much so that if you can’t find me, look down the nearest rabbit-hole and there I’ll be oohing and aahing over some fact or story that’s caught my imagination.

I’ve written plenty of non-fiction articles, but my stories are always fiction and usually start with an idea sourced from non-fiction reading. The role of research is the same whether you’re a fiction or non-fiction writer. The differences lay in how you use that research. The best ideas emerge from reality and vintage newspapers are full of them. I use Trove as a major source (Australian based publications). Not only for ideas, but also to discover current affairs at/around a particular date and location, shipping news, and events. Depending on where you are and what you're researching, you might want online or physical access to libraries, archives, museums and, of course, newspapers and other publications.

Do you have favourite research resource you'd like to share? Drop a note in the comments. I'm always looking for more resources to troll through.

A fiction writer will want the information to help develop characters, make locations and situations more believable, and/or to inform readers on themes, messages, historical occurrences/people.

A non-fiction writer will be dealing with facts in a more literal way to support an argument or describe a topic or incidence. Accuracy is their mantra (or should be).

Fiction writers want accuracy too but can be more liberal with the facts and writing style. The trick is to meld the fact with the fiction so well that it all comes across as truth. Readers want to believe after all.

The role of research in fiction and non-fiction writing is the foundation of all creative writing. It supplements and supports knowledge while also acting as inspiration for current and future writing works.

A rabbit wearing a top hat while reading a newspaper with a cup of tea and teapot beside it

Disclaimer: the images above were created using Adobe Firefly (ai)


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