At a recent and beautifully curated scratch night, I had the pleasure to not only watch my work deftly and boldly thrown out into the air, I also got the chance to field a few questions.
I was asked if I researched my work. Now, research is useful, and there are many ways to do it. For some, it involves sitting in a library, for others surfing the net, and for others still lengthy interviews with experts. Any combination is possible, and sitting in a cafe and simply listening is research.
During my time as a writer I have interviewed sex workers, journalists, met with experts, and more.
I consider it important to be informed, and I consider it sensible to expand the lens.
I also consider it important to only do as much research as allows you to feel, to be credible, and to create the given circumstances of the world coherently. As much as helps you find the spark that ignites the inner life of your characters. In short, research is only useful if it helps you tell the story.
I know when I have reached the point I can write credibly and honestly, and do not consider it necessary to be an expert. I do enough to tell a story and I never do too much. It’s a fine balance, sometimes the unlikeliest thing can open up something really rather important – research is exciting like that.
When I was researching the sex industry I had the pleasure of sharing drinks with a specialist in BDSM. We spoke about her career in the army, her way into BDSM, and her typical encounters. All of this was useful, and what was really extraordinary was the feeling of growing mutual attraction during the process of discussing the research. It was this aspect of the interview that was most revealing and most useful. (The attraction had nothing to do with her work, and I was in no doubt she was very good at it.)
So research is, like everything to do with writing, about what you can feel.
I want to feel as much as is humanly possible and always leave off research if it starts to clog up this process.
In short, enough to tell a story.