The Tyranny of Research. Bring it on! | A Writer of History

You need some sort of plan for your novel before you start to research it, or how would you know what or where you needed to research, but serious writers of history clearly have to be prepared to tear up their original plan if that’s the only way of being honest in the depiction of a particular period and the attitudes of the people who lived at that time.

Research is, indeed, a tyrannical boss. You might be wondering, therefore, why the second half of my title for this post is Bring it on!

While we must bow, however reluctantly, to the findings thrown up by our research if we are to be true to our subject, once we’ve done that, we will find that our research is more than just a hard taskmaster – it is our friend.

It’s highly exciting to embark upon a process of exploration, thinking you know what you’ll find at the end, but then unexpectedly uncovering a dimension of which you’d never dreamed, a dimension which sends your creative powers down a totally different, but highly stimulating, path. Your research will help you to develop your plot and characters. The more you learn about your chosen period, the more ideas for characters and situations will fall into your lap as you seek out ways to give dramatic effect to the facts you have learnt.

The Tyranny of Research. Bring it on! | A Writer of History

4 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Research. Bring it on! | A Writer of History

  1. Hi Sharon,

    Would you feel ‘ betrayed’ or ‘ lied to;’ if yio discovered, later, that a novel or film had
    misrepresented historical truth ?

    Just been watching a TV historical drama I missed when first broadcast – and knew, already, that two key episodes differ radically from auhenticated, verified events. ?



    1. That’s a really good question. I don’t mind a little compression of a timeline, for example, as long as it’s explained in an authot’s note. However, I have experienced the blatant factual inaccuracy to which you refer.

      A number of years ago, I was asked to provide an honest review of a book set late in Queen Victoria’s reign. In it, the author referred to “the king of England.” There was no such person during the period, obviously, and I called that out in the review. The author was thoroughly incensed, because she had “used creative license, as my readers might not know that the Prince of Wales was a member of the royal family, and anyway he became king later.”

      I wish I were making this up. 😦

      I didn’t feel personally betrayed or anything, but I was jerked right out of the story when I read it and, subsequently, wondered why this author thought so little of her readers’ intellectual acumen. After all, now King Charles III was Prince of Wales at the time, and a good many of her readers were probably old enough to have watched his wedding to Diana on television.


      1. Hi Sharon

        Legendary lawyer, William Garrow, eventually PC , pioneering the concept of ‘ innocent until proven guilty0 – fathered first child at 19, first year as a law student, the second at 24, and newly qualified.
        Not sued for adultery – not possible, as nobody was married to the lady in question . On the contray, what seems to have been a relaxed menage a trois, and the young lawyer , lady friend, and chidrfen funded by her previous – and very rich lover, Sir Arthur Hill.
        Garrow did eventually marry Sarah, ibut not till his thirties.

        Victoiria though, and no King. Charles III’s wife is called Queen


        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s