Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Haberdasher (#atozchallenge)

Welcome to today's post on the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. My challenge, as I have chosen to accept it, is thus: I have asked on my Facebook and Twitter accounts for people to contribute random words beginning with today's letter. From Random.org, I have selected one of these words, and will below challenge myself to connect said word to writing.

For the letter H, I received 75 suggestions. Random.org selected number 20: haberdasher.


When I think of haberdashers, I envision 18th century dressmakers (or their modern day RenFest equivalents). In terms of literature, I imagine period pieces or authentic works from the canon. A dress maker in a Jane Austen novel, or a minor character for Mrs. Havisham to kick around.

But in complete and bare, honest truth, I have no idea what a haberdasher is. Or I didn't before taking an e-trip to the wonderful world of Wikipedia. It's one of those words that provides me with a vague, amorphous concept, but when it comes to an actual definition, I would stutter and hide behind my hair in shame.

But what if I needed a haberdasher in my work? This brings me to today's connection to writing: research.

Nothing's worse than reading fiction to see, for example, a Ford Cavalier mentioned as the car the character drives (Chevy makes the Cavalier, not Ford), or that England is landlocked, or that a haberdasher works in a casino. The reader instantly distrusts the author, sometimes enough to stop reading.

Research is important. We have to do it. We have to know what we're talking about. If we fake it, there's someone out there who DOES know and will call us out on it.

So, what's the best way to go about doing research?

First, and most importantly, WIKIPEDIA IS NOT ENOUGH! :) First, since Wikipedia's information is organized by volunteers around the world who input data into the site, add sources, etc., it is FALLIBLE. Don't believe me? Here's an example--one of many.

I'm not saying you can't start with Wikipedia, but double check your sources!

Sorry, I'm used to seeing undergraduate students site Wikipedia as their only source. It gets my ire up.

Now, we're all writers, so we're not afraid of books. Where else can we start? Eh hem. The library :)

When you've started, if you've still got unanswered questions, find an expert. Surely you've run across an author's name a few times, or see the same person cited regularly in your research. Contact that person. Chances are the person is either a journalist or an academic. I can't promise the person will talk to you, but the worst that can happen is the person doesn't respond to your inquiry. It's no worse than querying, right? We can handle it.

Do you do extensive research for your work? On what? Have you contacted experts, or stuck to books?

PS--Today I'm taking suggestions for L. Have some? Leave them below. 


Wendy G. Ewurum said...

A fountain of sound advise as always. Thank you R.

Carrie said...

Good post. Research and getting the facts right is so important.

Siv Maria said...

Research is important I agree. thanks for the informative post. lets see L,
I like lurid, but thats just me :)

Marjorie said...

I had some research to do recently and though I kept wikipedia's information in mind I went to many different sources.

Hannah Roderick said...

Thanks for the post - a good prompt to remember: do your research! Write about what you know, or if you don't know, make sure you find out...

Perhaps that's why fantasy writing is so attractive?

Thanks for commenting on my Disney post - it seems as if you're getting a good balance between left and right-brain. And hopefully one day, they will feel fully connected, completely aligned and complimentary for you.

Goood luck. I'm enjoying reading your blog so I'll keep watching, thank you.

Hannah Roderick: People Watch

Trisha said...

I agree that research is essential, in some genres more than others. It's awful when you see one little string of words undermining an author's credibility!

Anonymous said...

My editor reminds me most books are written at a fourth grade level and to be careful about using words the reader may have to stop and look up. This can be very frustrating for many readers.

Jules said...

LOL, I have never used Wikipedia. Like you I do not trust a bunch of volunteers. I prefer more to the point sources :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Munir said...

"Elements of Style " by Strunk and White is great.

LTM said...

I had to do some pretty extensive research for my historical. I'd never written one before... but it was fun!

And there's a haberdasherie in it in fact! :D L... hmmm... Linguistics? Yes? That should be easy~

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