Research: getting to know the characters in your story

The consensus among my fellow Core II classmates’ feelings toward research seem to align with my own: We loathe it. But, after reading some feature articles that incorporate lengthy research into their respective topics, I realized that performing research is vital to crafting the world in which your story takes place.

Take, for example, Tom Junod’s experience with the family of Norberto, the man he suspected to be the falling man. Who would have known his wife’s grief would stem not just from his loss, but from her disappointment in him for abandoning his family? Although he was not the man pictured jumping from the twin towers in the photo, this experience shaped his narrative about the helplessness felt by every American on 9/11.

Though 9/11 is perhaps the heaviest topic of all the features we read, I noticed that the research done was used to inject realism into all forms of storytelling. Amy Ellis Nut’s The Accidental Artist provided images of the brain to augment John Sarkin’s story, but Shipping Out used it’s research to make its humor that much more funny. Writing a compelling story can require of us everything from understanding how the brain functions to telling a good joke.

After seeing how these established authors used the various kinds of research archives to improve their writing, I am inspired to explore the possibilities in my own writing. But, unfortunately, I still don’t have a topic to explore. Which leads me to my next blog entry …


One response to “Research: getting to know the characters in your story

  1. I like your thoughts on the importance of research. Unless the authors we read had been willing to do the “heavy lifting” before they wrote their articles, those pieces would not have been the same. In Nutt’s article, the story of Jon Sarkin would have lacked depth and intensity without the medical information. How could Wallace have been so funny if he had not been so neurotically observant? And Junod did a fantastic job of examining how we as a culture reacted to the story of the people who jumped from the Twin Towers on 9/11, turning the focus of his research as much on the media as he did on our reaction to the media. How we can do the same with our stories!

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