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Why original research is important to your stories

In my last post, “How to make dry research fun,” I wrote about the research I’m doing for my current work-in-progress. I’m writing a story that contains fallen angels, demons, and even the greatest fallen angel of all time.

Part of my research involves reading current novels that contain this subject matter so I can see what’s out there and what’s been done (so I don’t repeat it). But this is not all or even the majority of my research. Most of my reading is of historical texts and references. I’m going back in time to find the “real” history of my characters and themes.

So why not just read what’s hot now? If I were writing a vampire novel, I’d want to read, among others, Stoker’s Dracula, Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Meyer’s Twilight (to see what all the fuss is about).

But if I only read these books, I’d be basing my knowledge on other author’s perceptions, themes, and ideas. 

If I conduct my own historical research–going back in time to discover where the original vampire myths came from, etc.–then I have a better chance of creating my own themes and ideas.

As storytellers and writers our goal is to create new and fresh ideas,  characters and story lines. They say that every story has already been told and maybe that’s true–but it hasn’t been told in your way, through your eyes and mind and heart. Nobody can do that but you.

When I embark on a new research project, it helps to make a list of books or other sources I want to review. A list allows me see if my research is balanced or if I’m relying too much on other’s storytelling.

Next week, I’ll share my current reading list.

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