Posted on March 15, 2024 at 9:00 AM by Guest Author

You can elevate your storytelling by incorporating the right details. Discover the importance of research for fiction writers and practical tips.

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The Importance of Research for Fiction Writers 

If you assume a fiction book doesn’t require any real-life investigation, think again. In fact, research for fiction writers isn’t just strongly recommended — it’s crucial. It gives you the knowledge and understanding to create a compelling story that resonates with readers. Some would argue that research can enhance your creative process, helping your work reach its full potential. 

Here are just a few examples of what research does:

It adds authenticity and credibility to storytelling.

Research is critical to authenticity in fiction, allowing you to develop believable worlds and characters. By immersing yourself in the details, you can infuse your narrative with accuracy and credibility. Whether it’s the realistic portrayal of a historical event or the nuances of a character’s profession, research adds a layer of realism that readers appreciate.  

It enriches the narrative with depth and detail. 

Another advantage of research for fiction writers is that it helps bring a story to life. It adds richness and texture to your writing that can be difficult to achieve otherwise. It enables you to describe the sights, sounds, and smells of a setting so that readers feel they’re actually there. This level of depth and detail not only makes your fictional world more immersive and memorable but also enhances the reader’s understanding of the story. 

It helps avoid inaccuracies and maintain engagement.

With research, you can also avoid introducing errors and inconsistencies that affect the reader’s enjoyment or cause them to lose interest. Nearly every fictional work requires some suspension of disbelief on the reader’s part. But if you’re incorporating actual events, cultural customs, or scientific concepts, it’s important to present them in a factual way. Doing so makes your story more believable so that readers stay engaged. 

5 Types of Valuable Research for Fiction Writers 

There’s no rule regarding what kind of research you should conduct for your book. Ultimately, the exploratory work you do depends on your unique needs. That said, some are especially valuable. 

Here are five of the most common types of research for fiction writers:


Performing historical research helps you understand specific time periods, events, and even cultural nuances. It allows you to delve into the past so you can weave your narrative with precision. Of course, this type of research is nonnegotiable for historical fiction, but stories in other genres can benefit from it, too. 


Settings can become characters in their own right, shaping the mood and atmosphere of a story. That’s why it’s worth exploring the physical landscapes and architectural styles of a place you’re including in your book. Doing so makes it easier to depict a location’s sights, sounds, and sensations in vivid detail so that readers are transported. 


Performing this type of research can go a long way toward creating relatable, believable, and multidimensional characters. Whether you’re including a figure from history or inventing your own, it’s important to dive deep. It’s not just about developing complex backstories and clarifying their motivations — it’s about ensuring your characters make sense to readers. And, in the case of real people, you need to get your facts straight. 


Another type of valuable research for fiction writers is subject matter. You should aim to learn about topics relevant to the plot or themes. For instance, you may explore a specific profession, hobby, or cultural practice one of your characters has. Understanding the intricacies of a subject can help you accurately depict the details that make your narrative come alive. 


Getting the facts right is crucial when your story involves science, technology, or legal matters. Researching technical aspects helps you understand the principles behind these concepts. Moreover, it aids you in creating a world that feels real and immersive to your readers. 

How to Do Research for a Fiction Book 

The approach to research for fiction writers can vary from one to the next. However, there are some ways to make the process easier and more effective. Below are some basic steps to guide your efforts. 


Before diving into research, define specific aspects of your story that require exploration. What don’t you already know? Maybe you need historical context for the time period in which your story is set. Or perhaps you need to work on a character's background. Whatever the case, outlining your goals beforehand ensures you stay focused.  


This may seem obvious, but the best means of research for fiction writers usually involves reading. Start by browsing the Internet for relevant reading materials. Immerse yourself in books, articles, and other online resources related to your needs. 


Don’t be afraid to expand your research beyond traditional sources. For example, you can explore documentaries, podcasts, and films to gain diverse perspectives. Taking advantage of other forms of media can improve your understanding of the subject matter. 


As you’re researching, keep a running list of questions that pop up in your mind. Whether you want to know more about a person briefly mentioned in a source or the equipment used for a specific task, jot it down. This will help guide further exploration and ensure a thorough investigation into all key aspects of your story. 


If you hit a road block in your research or just need to go more in depth, the library is often your best bet. Librarians can be incredibly helpful for navigating catalogs, accessing archives, and finding obscure references. You can walk away with a wealth of information for your book. 


Consulting experts is another great way to gather information. You can reach out to historians, people in specific professions, or even those present during a particular time. You can often get clarification and insights you won’t find elsewhere. 

Make sure to be respectful when making such requests. If you plan to conduct an informational interview, be prepared beforehand. And don’t forget to thank them for their time. 


Whenever possible, visit locations and engage in activities related to your story. Getting firsthand experience allows you to gather sensory details so you can craft better descriptions. Many authors go to great lengths for the sake of authenticity, and it usually results in a more compelling book. 


Part of conducting research for fiction writers is fact-checking. You should verify the accuracy of the information you compiled. That way, you can ensure reliability and avoid inaccuracies that may undermine the credibility of your story.

TIP: Don’t skip this step! The last thing you want to do is run into legal issues like defamation. So, make sure to confirm the accuracy of your research, especially when it comes to real people.


Finally, develop a systematic approach to organizing your research findings. Depending on your preference, this may include digital tools or physical notebooks. Either way, you want to facilitate easy access and reference as you integrate them into your narrative.

Tips for Applying Research to Writing 

Once you understand the importance of research for fiction writers and how to do it, there’s the last step — applying that research to your writing. The good news is we’ve provided some practical tips below. By following these recommendations, you can make sure you’re using your research effectively. 

Integrate findings gradually. 

Avoid dumping all your research into the narrative at once. Instead, integrate it gradually throughout the writing process. If you’ve compiled a lot of information about certain people, places, and events, this should happen naturally. Still, it’s a good reminder to sprinkle details throughout your story for a greater effect. 

Strike a balance. 

Research adds depth to your writing, but too much can overwhelm readers. Be mindful not to weigh down the narrative with excessive details. You should provide enough information to create a vivid world and believable characters while leaving room for readers to imagine. 

Allow yourself some flexibility.

The thing about research for fiction writers is that it provides a foundation for your story. But don’t be afraid to take creative liberties when necessary. Use your imagination to fill in the gaps in records. You can enhance the feeling of a scene for readers while staying true to the essence of your research.  

Acknowledge research partners. 

If anyone helped you with your research (e.g., subject matter experts or research librarians), be sure to thank them in the acknowledgments section. Along with being an expected gesture, it gives credit where it’s due. Plus, it adds credibility to your work. 

Be transparent with readers.

If you’ve made changes to historical events for the sake of storytelling, consider including a note to readers explaining your choices. Transparency builds trust with your audience. Further, it allows them to appreciate the creative process behind your work.


Research for fiction writers is the cornerstone of good writing. Even when the work as a whole is a product of your own invention, there are probably aspects rooted in reality. In that case, you can create a stronger book by incorporating details that bring the story to life. So embrace research as part of your writing process moving forward. 

Categories: Behind the scenes

Tagged As: Writing advice

Even though researching adds a lot of time to the writing process, I feel much more confident about any story I am writing as to its accuracy and ability to add realism to the plot, along with characters, locations, and history included in the story. As you never know what knowledge or personal connection some readers may have, it always makes me feel more secure that the readers will enjoy the book even more and not lose interest over some aspects they know not to be correct or accurate. Well worth the time to research!
Hal Adkins | 4/5/24 at 3:21 PM
Research has become one of my favorite aspects of writing. My fiction tends to be historical. In addition to making sure historical facts are correct, I enjoy verifying when products and machines were invented or came into use. And almost a guilty pleasure, discovering when a slang word or phrase was born. "I will serve no term before its time" has been my motto.
Mark Rush | 4/4/24 at 9:02 AM
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