I realize that I digress today. I was supposed to write about my books and their main characters. But a couple of things happened yesterday to inspire me to write about research.
First, I read a blog post about research for fiction writing. The conclusion was that even fiction requires a lot of research. I agree, especially for a story that takes place in a real location.
The other thing that happened yesterday was that I watched State of Play, a political thriller set in DC. Some of the scenes (like the one set in a Metro station) were obviously filmed in DC. Others (like a scene set in Crystal City) were not.
Why does it matter? For many people, it won't. If you've never visited or lived in DC, you won't know where scenes are filmed or how scenes are described in a book.
But if you have lived there, good, accurate descriptions might be the reason to keep reading and buying more books.
As an author, doing research will affect the richness of your writing. When I wrote the first draft of "The Case of the Haunted Vampire," I left my settings vague. Then I went on a walking tour of DC to find good locations. When I went back to rewrite, the descriptions were better. Minor characters came to life. I added fun details. The writing overall was much better.
Research is very important for one of my main characters, who is a vampire. He uses Metro to get around, and I need to keep track of which parts of the route are above ground. I don't want him suddenly turning to dust on his way to saving someone!
It's also important because he's pretty old. (Nope, not telling here how old.) I've done research on his back story, which allows me to plant seeds for future stories. This makes the story richer to (hopefully) attract and retain readers.
Bottom line? Do your research. Make your settings realistic. Use history when you can to enrich your story lines. And then sit down and write something! It's easy to spend all your time researching, but ultimately you've got to write to be a writer.