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Nut In The Shell:
Research This
By Keith Giles


For those of you taking notes at home, this is the fourth column in a series dealing with the craft of writing for comics.

We’ve covered the basics of writing and now we’re moving into the nuts and bolts stuff.

Anyway, remember how I said that "Writing Is Work"?

Well...it is. And a big part of the work of writing involves Research.

Research is what separates good writing from great writing. It's what makes your writing stand above the crowd and it lends your writing a degree of credibility that "un-researched" writing lacks.

It doesn't matter how cool your concept, if you don't have good research to inject the story with a degree of believability, then you're sunk.

Article continued below advertisement

Let me tell you, I've really learned to do a lot of research. Google is my best friend and I've spent a lot of time in my local Library looking at historical materials, magazines and technical journals to make sure I "get it right".

For example, on my sci-fi Western, DURANGO SIVLER, I did tons of research on Native American history. In fact, a lot of that research material greatly influenced my initial story ideas, and even provided essential elements of the plot itself the more I learned about Native American culture and history.

The research can shape and change your writing in ways you never dreamed of.

Do it. It's good for you.

On my other book, DIGERATI, I've been scouring the 'Net for detailed info about weapons, futuristic munitions, psychotropic technology and even medical psychology of the human brain and memory.

For THE DEVIL'S RIDING HORSE I researched the real-life works of Nicolai Syadristy and the Siberian Meteor Crash of 1901.

For UV: TARGET I researched the entire spectrum of light, depleted uranium and the cloning and genetic engineering processes used by scientists worldwide.

To be honest, for HARD VIDEO I didn't research diddly. The entire concept came to me in a dream and I just sat down and wrote it out verbatim. That doesn't happen very often, so that's why you have to rely on research. Not only that, but HARD VIDEO benefited from some great feedback sessions with creator Paul Pope and sci-fi writer Richard Kadrey. If you don’t have sounding boards like that at your disposal, trust me, do the research.

WHATEVER YOU DO....Don't use comic books as your research material. Other comics are a poor source of reference for any form of writing.

You need to read actual books on the subjects you're interested in. You need to spend time at websites that publish real, credible and reliable sources of information on whatever you're writing about.

Again, don't use Sin City as a reference book for your crime novel. I mean, read a real novel or science book or study up on issues that interest you.

Research also involves paying attention to the world around you. Look at the way people walk and talk and move in real life, not just in the movies and in comics. You're looking for the small details that will make your story come to life and feel true.

Research brings your writing into the real world, even if what you're writing about isn't this world we're living in now.

So, start with your basic story concept, make a list of the subjects you'll need additional information on, and get started on your research.

You'll be glad you did.

Class dismissed.

Keith Giles is one of the world's greatest enigmas. Ruggedly handsome, and yet surprisingly gentle and compassionate with small animals, Keith actually has a very weak grasp of reality and often talks to himself in the bathroom mirror. He's currently writing his own original sci-fi novels and putting together a few comic books of his own in his spare time. Visit him at PlasticAnimal.com.


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