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Author Topic: How much research to do when developing a story?  (Read 323 times)

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Offline Suuper-san

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How much research to do when developing a story?
« on: March 02, 2021, 11:43:41 AM »
I'm hitting a lot of basic issues now I'm leaning into writing, sorry for the noobyness.

I understand that the answer is sort of obvious - do as much research as is needed to make the story accurate and interesting.

But I'm also wondering how much research actually gets included in the story once you write it.

For example if I remember correctly in a bonus page the writer of History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi said he actually went to other dojos and did research on martial arts and so on, and included some of that in his story, but also made up a lot of stuff that doesn't exist to make it even crazier.

Like if you write a cooking manga like Shokugeki no Souma, then you'll need to know cooking vocabulary and terms.

I think my actual question, is, Can you get away with not researching very much and bluffing your way through the story?

I think also Research and Inspiration are quite closely related. You can get a lot of ideas from research, but take them in different directions and so on.

I suppose my sub-question is, Is it obvious when an author has done or not done their research, even if that research doesn't show directly in their work?
Like you can tell the work has more flavour or depth?

I think I'm getting closer to my real question lol
In a fantasy, what benefit is there to research when the entire thing is written "from scratch"?

I understand it can help with inspiration of course.

What should I even research?

Given that inspiration can be rather abstract in how you interpret things - like seeing a design for armour in the museum might give you an idea for a character, that doesn't even wear armour. So it's almost like any and all research that you do, could be helpful? That sounds awfully unstructured.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 12:57:39 PM by Suuper-san »
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Offline legomaestro

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Re: How much research to do when developing a story?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2021, 06:58:37 PM »
It mixes and matches. The best way to approach this problem is: How would you describe your house to a stranger to make it interesting?

There is

1- The emotional obvious aspect of you living in the house that requires spontaneous sentences and specific, personal  not-necessarily-rational demarcations of describing your home and

2 - The amount of stuff you know technically about your house ranging from how old it is to how many generations of families lived in it and if the walls were made with a specific kind of brick or clay.


The creative side of writing is mostly what tugs at heart strings and interests people in reading stories, but the grounding comes from knowing the exact details. All in all I'd say you should focus on how YOU would tell something in general, rather than question HOW MUCH is required in the telling.

I love how much mangaka research stuff and this is funny enough a question I've been asking myself with Dr. Stone (A manga I love but strangely enough can't read sequentially. It doesn't quite engage me as much as it could) and I'd infact recommend that manga along with

- Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction

and  One Punch Man (A super simplistic anti-thesis to whether research is needed or not to make a manga that people enjoy)



Concretely, I'd say stick with your style of developing concepts: Have the initial idea and then take a dive into wikipedia to further the concept. If self-research is too boring take the opportunity to ask chat or any friends/fam (or even make topics in the forum) about what you think about certain points.

Research is NOT reading a page from A to B. It's exploration in order to enhance ideas that are already there.


Not sure if that helps but that's my two cents haha.

Offline Suuper-san

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Re: How much research to do when developing a story?
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2021, 07:04:55 AM »
well my question is so multi-faceted that it's hard to pin down one exact question that sums up what I was trying to ask, it's more like a general discussion on the pros, cons and methods regarding research :P

ah yeah Dr. Stone definitely had me thinking the same thing, totally. You had to have done research for that sort of thing.

One Punch man was just an off the cuff story? I know the original art is pretty bad but I didn't know that the author just threw it together, interesting.

regarding those points
1) Given I'm writing manga scripts there's not much opportunity to show that sort of emotional side, maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I see it at the moment. I think that writing it into to the lore and backstory might definitely influence characters speech and actions though so I'll have to keep that in mind.

2) I think this is where research comes in handy, like researching Victorian and older buildings to influence how your fantasy houses are constructed given the genre is similar. Like understanding the limitations of the materials available. Even construction for say, armor, will be very useful to know what real armor looks like and functions, even if you design something different, there will be core similarities simply because of designing for a purpose (i.e. there's only so many helmet designs you can have without it looking like one of the many already existing helmet designs)

hmmmm so you think I should sort of figure out my own story telling style, and see how much research is needed to support that style?
that makes a lot of sense. Like I might want to go into lots of details, or not much at all, and then that would affect how much I need to know/learn/research.

Ahhh I just remembered a word I dont use very much, instead of inspiration - Influence.
To me inspiration is more of a spontaneous (possibly unrelated) idea generation, but influence requires a bit more deeper/nuanced understanding, at least the way I use those words.

I might have been looking for how to get good influences on a story, to add flavour, actually :P
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Offline NO1SY

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Re: How much research to do when developing a story?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2021, 11:17:27 AM »
This is one of the more difficult questions to answer... In my opinion it all really depends on the story that you want to write, and then also understanding that a reader's immersion in your story is sort of dependent on being referential to experience. You either have to be able to write things in a way that relates to the real-world, or you have to put in the leg-work with your world-building so that your story can be self-referential and readers will still understand things.

So, I would say that writing a rom-com story where the entire plot is very mundane and non-technical could be written entirely without research, relying only on experience and gut feeling (which is sort of how approaching new relationships works in real life anyways...). Although I have heard stories from slice-of-life and romance writers who frequent cafes to just sit and people watch for inspiration, so I guess that's some form of research?

Then you have stories that revolve around some level of technical expertise with concepts that people can relate to - ranging from cooking a series like Shokugeki where I think it would be important to know ingredients and cooking techniques, and then maybe going as far as flavour combinations, to a martial arts series where an understanding of techniques and body mechanics is definitely at the fore, but past that maybe even an understanding of the philosophy and history could be really important to grasp. Readers, don't necessarily have to have directly experienced these activities, but they will have experienced relevant things that they can relate to the story with, such as tasting and moving their body. So as long as your story doesn't contradict their informative experiences, then you can get away with doing less research, but I honestly feel that the more that you yourself know as the writer, the deeper you can go with your story and the more immersed and engrossed you can get a reader.

A step further in my mind is then understanding more complex and multifaceted fields that an average reader will be less likely to be able to conceptualize or relate to. These encompass areas of science, culture and history. Here you become the temporary voice of authority on the matter, and in general if you are going break the rules for the sake of your story then it's usually best to know them well first... This is how series like The Expanse and The Lord of the Rings are so beloved by fans. It is also kinda dependent on the tone you set for your story also - if you start out promising something hyper-realistic and then pivot into something that is implausible or false then you will cause a dissonance that will not sit well with readers. Anyways, this is the category that I believe requires the most research, and then a lot of good world-building to establish rules for the reader to relate to. Sci-Fi is a good example of this as a genre, encompassing a lot of more conceptual and speculative story ideas to do with spacefaring, dystopias, A.I.'s etc for which the general reader will not be able to directly or even indirectly relate to in most cases, but then the writers create consistent rules that they can hold on to. If we then compare Star Wars to Starship's Mage to The Expanse, I would say that space travel and combat is the most unrealistic and worst thought through/presented in Star Wars, and although this doesn't stop it from being an enjoyable story I definitely appreciate the other better established systems much more. Good research in these fields helps to add depth, cohesive world-building, and remove inconsistency in your universe and plots.

Honestly, I think that most stories will never be just one of these levels, and require circumstantial levels of research at different points...

I'm kind of on the fence on how much research needs to be front-loaded though... part of me feels that you may be able to get away with writing first drafts without and then fleshing things out once you have the skeleton of a story... but then I really think that it's not efficient or even beneficial to work that way; surely you want to build on the strongest foundation possible from the start in almost all situations right?

I always find myself doing a ton of research one way or another. The only time I don't research is when I'm just writing down story concepts or when I already feel confident enough in my knowledge to write without it. For instance, I did no extra research when writing the Necromancer piece I released for Halloween last year, but I have a decent enough grasp of medieval fantasy, and fantasy necromancy as a concept, through extensive reading of book series, and exploring similar characters and concepts through D&D. I think that it's important to realize that your experiences with consuming media such as manga and comics and books and TV and Movies and games is all a form of research also - but, as you say more inspirational or influential as opposed to concretely informative.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2021, 11:26:48 AM by NO1SY »

Offline Suuper-san

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Re: How much research to do when developing a story?
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2021, 01:57:38 PM »
I think it's starting to make sense now, I was trying to get a general answer but considering the different types of stories it makes sense that each would have a different requirement on the research and knowledge required.

Ah yes definitely I count the manga and anime I watch to be part of my research, especially manga as I can use it as art reference as well.

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The only time I don't research is when I'm just writing down story concepts or when I already feel confident enough in my knowledge to write without it.
So I think in that genre, you've already done enough research in one way or another?
And that partly might be a good reason to specialise in one genre only (or at least, first, before others), because then your research in previous works will help your future ones.

I'm probably struggling since I have very little general knowledge or specific knowledge about any subject, I just don't feel that I know...anything about anything. So to me writing about anything seems a massive hurdle.

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Here you become the temporary voice of authority
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So as long as your story doesn't contradict their informative experiences, then you can get away with doing less research
This would justify doing "just about enough" research to get the layperson's view, and then writing from that since most people wont notice the issue. Like if you are writing about how a hospital works, you may miss certain features that a doctor or nurse would notice, but no-one else would.
Actually I've seen a couple of YouTube videos where a doctor watches different medial dramas and picks out the mistakes, so even in professional works there is a lack of research or sticking to exact reality sometimes.

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I'm kind of on the fence on how much research needs to be front-loaded though... part of me feels that you may be able to get away with writing first drafts without and then fleshing things out once you have the skeleton of a story... but then I really think that it's not efficient or even beneficial to work that way; surely you want to build on the strongest foundation possible from the start in almost all situations right?
hmmm that's almost the thought that got me asking the question in the first place. Since I'm just starting out organising my story, I'm not sure how research will or wont help at certain early stages.

I think in most genres even the most ignorant person (currently myself) has a basic basic understanding, they must know something about each genre, and so that can help with building a base of a story that you know nothing about.

I like the idea of what I call JIT (Just-in-time) researching where you look up the information the moment you need it and efficiently find the info you need. In art this would be looking up a reference image the moment you come to draw it, not stockpiling it beforehand. But I think you have to have a certain level of experience to do this otherwise you'll get stuck real soon on.
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