I’ve talked a little bit about book research before; in fact I think I even did a whole video on it as part of my vlog series… yes! Here it is:
Anyway, I don’t know how much more I can reinforce this. If you’re going to research something, research it meticulously. Even when you think you know about something, still research it. Look at the nuts and bolts of it; learn how it functions; understand it fully before it ever goes near your book. So many people think they know about something and they ‘explain’ it in a novel and then they get a reader like me who actually knows about the subject in question and gets irritated when the author has made false statements. Particularly when said statements are condescending or in the tone of poking fun.
My favourite bugbear right now is with crime novels. I like this genre and I read a lot of it, but I think I’m going to start reading only American ones because I’m tired of spotting all the mistakes in the Police procedure and works in the British ones, particularly the Scottish ones. I had a minor hissy fit last night because I was reading the first book by Stuart MacBride in which he makes fun of HOLMES, while simultaneously making statements about it that are completely false. I think he thought he understood what Holmes does, but he’s wrong. The truth is, he probably spoke to several cops while researching the book and an equal truth is that they probably don’t know what it does either. But, you see, I’m kind of a specialist in this field and that’s my point. If you want to talk about something and you want to research it, GO TO SOMEONE IN THAT FIELD. Or that town. Or an expert in whatever area you’re interested in. Don’t get your information second hand.
I’m not even going to start on Peter May for the way he butchered Police procedure. I got about 20% into one of his books and couldn’t bring myself to read on, despite how “amazing” everyone tells me his books are.
I get that authors aren’t perfect, that we can’t look up everything; little mistakes happen, I’m sure I’ve made plenty, but if you don’t have the info, don’t explicitly write about it. Simples.
Do your research and do it well.