A Good Story Is Built On Details

I’ve read many times that a good story is in its details. Concrete details like sight, sound, scent, texture/temperature, taste, and emotional impact are the ways to pull a reader into a story. It turns out that there is more.

Adding hard facts adds details too.

I’ve been to several places in British Columbia. Some could be described as big, historic, not-so-big, picturesque, farmland, a holiday spot, politically charged, orΒ  just too damn small. In my past I’ve enjoyed all kinds events, and a variety of people.

No doubt those people, places and things have changed over time. If I want to be up-to-date and use the most current information, I’ve got to find it first.


I can think of three things to research when getting started on a story:

  • My main characters common knowledge
    • Pets, hobbies, sports, prejudice, vocation,Β  etc
  • Where my characters live
    • world, settings, weather, crime, business, etc
  • And general details of where the story may lead

More specific items will come up as things move forward.

I never dreamed when I wrote my first story I’d land up diving in so deep. But just like you, the more I write the deeper I go.

Information is everywhere

There is no excuse for not looking up any detail no mater how big or how small. There is more than the local library, and traveling today. There’s the internet, Google Streets and Skpe/Facetime. We can literally talk to anyone anywhere.

Information is at our fingertips.

squirrel-304021_1280_nobgUsing a character as guide, I seek out what each character needs to know to be credible. You may choose to go further. I draw the line, because if I researched everything in my story until it was only full of facts then I’d be up to my elbows in creative non-fiction.

Tell me, what’s the weirdest thing you needed to research and where did you find it?


47 responses to “A Good Story Is Built On Details

  1. Lei Lines, energy and the <Power of the Pyramids the connection between myth, science, and theory based on new scientific facts, and moving into sound and vibration, however, I don’t think it is that weird but very interesting,

    Sounds like you are having fun.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  2. Details, details. It’s hard sometimes to find a balance with too many and too few. I love researching for my stories. I had to check out how to sell drugs on the Internet for my latest mystery, Deadly Undertaking. I learned a LOT. Have you heard of the DarkNet or bitcoin? I was surprised at how many people did know the terms when I asked. Fun to learn about it, but pretty depressing too to discover such a dark place.

    • I saw bitcoin in a thriller movie on TV and then looked on net to find out its real as well as the DarkNet also seen in many movies and What? Is it real? Yeah, really cool. I have not research that but it’s on my list of interesting things to research. Like I said, I have seen many shows out there that deal with the subject in a fictional way. I also find it fascinating to learn what is true and what is not and shocked with how much is true and sometimes worse.

      The interesting thing is how long they have existed too. Good one JQ.

    • Hard to avoid dark spaces when writing about illegal drugs. It makes me shudder.

  3. I love to do research for my stories. I do a lot of research on their careers and the setting. I like to pack in the things I learn. πŸ™‚

  4. For me, I build in the details as I edit/rewrite. They rarely come in the first draft, but they’re so important to be there and fill in the world around the characters.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with this, as they say, the devil is in the details. πŸ˜‰

  6. It’s those tiny details that make characters come to life for me. And…if I can’t get into the characters, even a great story will fall flat. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I had heard on a TV show about a character with two penisis, so I had to look it up. I must know things.The things I mostly look for are murder or horror related.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  7. So true. Good reminder.

  8. I feel like 65.99% of what my writing is is actually research. It’s an approximate number lol. I can’t really think of the weirdest thing I’ve researched. The last thing I googled for the story was if The Daily Sketch (a newspaper) was already out in 1894. It wasn’t, so there’s no newspaper name mentioned.

  9. I’ve had some strange searches in my day. One was how to liquefy a human. Another was the pitfalls of cannibalism. Of course there’s also my mad scientist who Macgyvers stuff like knock out gas and chemical reactions to make a zeppelin explode. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m on a government watch list. Thankfully, all of my stuff is fantasy, so I have wiggle room to fudge some of the details. πŸ™‚

  10. Yes, it is all about the deets!

  11. authorcrystalcollier

    Oh boy… The weirdest thing? How to melt a body. I was sure glad the FBI wasn’t monitoring my computer that day. Definitely not a pretty subject. Of course, it seems to be a pretty common subject for writers to investigate.

  12. Probably not the wierdest thing, but I needed my MC to ride a Greyhound bus across the state, and as I’ve never done that myself, I had to ask questions to make sure I wasn’t writing something foolish that anyone who had ridden a bus would spot.

  13. I think the weirdest thing I ever researched was about the details of fire temperatures and what happened physically when a body is burned alive. I worried that might get me on the FBI watch list. πŸ˜€

    Google Streets is the absolute best for researching neighborhoods, etc. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

  14. I finally had to hire a researcher for one of my books. It was getting too complicated and time consuming. One of the things I had to find out:

    Did slaves in 1700’s CuraΓ§ao have pillows?

  15. Researching is one of my favorite parts of being a writer. Sometimes I can lose hours cruising Google Streets and reading Wikipedia articles. One of the weirdest things lately has been cannibalism. Fun stuff!

  16. My research has been fairly mundane, mostly involving medieval castles and weaponry, and white river rafting. I don’t generally do the research ahead of time but look up things as I run across things I don’t know enough about. As a pantser, I never know where I’m going to end up. πŸ™‚

  17. I’ve looked up so many things, I can’t decide what’s the strangest. I dig when I add authenticity to those details.

  18. I adore research. I’m pretty sure it’s why I write. Over the years I’ve researched some really bizarre stuff. So bizarre in fact, I can’t say what’s the weirdest. I have learned that we (writers) should pay more attention to getting the basic things right. For example, cordite hasn’t been used in ammunition in over 70 years. Yet one still read stories where a gun is fired and the protag smells cordite. This tiny detail cam throw me out of a story in seconds.

    VR Barkowski

  19. I love reading books that entertain, but also educate me with the details of a time or place that I’m visiting in the story.

  20. Well, I write horror, so we’ll skip what I’ve researched about that. But for my UF novel, I was finding restaurants in a town in Canada to write into the story. Little things like that.

  21. Another blogger I follow has been writing blog posts examining Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle and how the world and characters just feel so ALIVE. I think it’s because Maggie has a good grasp of the things you mentioned, the details and foibles that make people and places unique.

  22. jennifer@badbirdreads

    I love details but it is a hard balance to find.

  23. I don’t often do research because I mostly write fantasy set elsewhere. When I don’t know a detail, I invent it. But when I decided to write a regency story, I did some research. One of my more interesting questions was: what happened when a British officer betrayed his country, and then was killed in battle before his treachery was discovered. Any consequences to his family? Fortunately, there are many writers online with detailed knowledge of the era. I sent several emails, and everyone was very generous with their answers. My story is on wattpad now, and it already has over 6,000 reads and hundreds of Likes. I guess, my research paid off.

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