Saturday, August 20, 2005

Do Your Damn Research

Mes Amis

Isn't it funny the things we believe? Like the person who shall remain nameless who believed that Tammy Wynette used to be a man (Tam Wynette, y'see) and believed that's what "Stand By Your Man" was all about. Or me. Who has believed for something like three years now that Dundee was Scotland's third city. Why? Because someone whose opinion I trusted told me that and I took it at face value.

It is, of course, the title that belongs to Aberdeen. I'll give it you, MacBride. We're the fourth. Not bad going, though. So my apologies to the poor woman at Harrogate with whom I was arguing the point. I was acting under misinformation or my own stupidity. One or the other. Or both.

But its funny how we can believe things sometimes, even if we don't know neccasarily *know* them. But then that's why people like I must do research. I'm doing a lot of that, asking people who should know things a lot of dumb questions so I can make sure my book is at least a third right.

A friend of mine is a solicitor. He phoned me up a while back to complain about these stupid crime writers. He was reading a book set in Scotland which involved legal shennanigans as part of the plot. He supposed it was well enough written (he's not a huge reader) but what had him throwing the book across the room in anger was the legal points of the book. It was all English law and not scottish. Which again, someone may not neccasarily know unless they thought about it. After all most Brit crime programs are set in England and have English law. So I wonder how many Scots are really aware of just how different a legal system we have?

Of course, now that I'm entering this game seriously I have to take my research seriously. A writer must be an expert on all that he writes about, which is worrying. Or at least he must be able to fake expertise. Its a daunting prospect, but you know what I'm finding the more dumb questions I ask of people? Its kind of rewarding and, when you're actually interested in what you're asking about, a lot of fun, too.

Anyway, mes amis, till next time

Au Revoir



Stuart MacBride said...

You see it all the time in books and TV - everything operating under English law and police procedures. It's surprising how different things in Scotland are - number of jurors, access to a solicitor, the fact that we don’t use P.A.C.E. etc.

Take nothing for granted, except the stuff you make up. It is fiction after all.

that girl said...

I've decided to go cerebral on my jokes, what do you think?:

How many antelopes does it take to change a light bulb? None, they are hardy animals that migrate between tundra and wide open plains and therefore have no need for an artificial light source.

Laugh? I nearly.

JamesO said...

I always thought that Dundee was Scotland's biggest village, but then I only ever gaze at it over the waters from Fife, so what would I know?

The best thing is to bullshit with confidence - though that works better when talking rather than writing. Either that or write fantasy, where research is all done in the mind. But if you worry all the time about getting everything correct to the nth degree, you'll either never get anything written or your prose will read like an instruction manual.

Ignorance is bliss, which is why I wander around with a halfwit smile on my face the whole time;}#