Saturday, April 9, 2011
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.
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.