Saturday, September 7, 2013
Where Research Ends and Writing Begins
Gigi Pandian (Guest Blogger)
I write mysteries about a historian who solves present-day crimes linked to historical treasures, so I legitimately have to do a fair amount of research. However, when I first started writing a book, I took things too far. I got too caught up in the details. I wanted to write an adventure that combined British and Indian history in an unexpected way, but it would have taken years to reach the same expertise on the British East India Company as my protagonist, get a full understanding of Mughal art and jewelry, read all the legends in Scottish folklore…
I’ve learned that I need to do enough research to have a solid conceptual understanding of a subject, plus some intriguing gems to sprinkle throughout the book, but I don’t need to have the same expertise as my characters. Doing too much research can actually backfire—easily leading to “info dumps” with too much scholarly information jammed into the pages without furthering the plot or adding depth to the story.
I like my balanced approach much better. It allows me to have fun with research, doing a combination of online, book, and in-person research—and it also lets me get to “the end.”
On a trip to visit family in India during the time I was writing the book, I planned a couple of excursions that I thought would help me with book research. A funny thing happened to my grand research plans on that trip: I came up with a plot twist that became integral to the book, but it wasn’t because of one of the special research side-trips I’d planned. It was only because I was allowing my mind to wander, rather than being focused on research, that I was able to come up with the idea. The mind is a funny thing. I’m going to try my best to remember that as I begin researching my next novel…
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Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. After being dragged around the world during her childhood, she left a PhD program in favor of art school and now writes adventurous academic characters in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series. Find Gigi online at www.gigipandian.com (or Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest).