How much research should a writer do? A few weeks ago I was talking with someone who said he doesn’t do any research – not on the places or the time periods he sets his novels in. Another writer I know is planning a trip to Florida because she set her new story near Cape Canaveral, but has never been there. Unless everything you write is based on who you are and where you’ve been, there are going to be things that are outside of your experience. That’s when it’s best to call on other people’s experiences and knowledge. One of the benefits of writing groups can be access to people who know a lot of things that you don’t. Traditional researching methods like reading about relevant subjects or going out to see see or try things for yourself are also helpful.
I’m sure there’s a researching spectrum across fiction writers. Some don’t, some do, and some probably get far more involved than necessary. It depends on the author and on the subject matter.
I probably over-research merely because I’m fascinated by details. When did refrigerators become a common household item or at what university can my character obtain a degree in parapsychology? I am very good friends with Google Search and have a lot of books on topics I never would have expected to get so interested in. Since I tend to be interested in a blend of supernatural/historical/fantasy, I find myself researching a wide variety of things from Victorian asylums to the theoretical physics of time travel to the ecology of wolves.
So what do other people research? How important do you think it is when crafting your story?