Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Research According to J-Dash

That's right. I've made up a gangsta name for James Dashner. That's how you know you're in the Inner Sanctum. I make a gangsta name for you. Anyway, I went to listen to J-Dash talk about his new book, THE SCORCH TRIALS, last week. Someone asked him if he had to do any research for the book.

It wasn't even me, and I sort of shuddered like this arctic wind had just blown through the bookstore. No joke. And get this: He said he looked at a map! And maybe had to look up some brain diseases for like, "10 minutes."



Now, I'm sure he did more than that. But I so related to this kind of research. The difference is that I don't even look at maps. Or find out about brain diseases. So yeah. (And for the record, later on he said he'd drawn a map of the maze for THE MAZE RUNNER. Which is, sadly, more than I've done for my book. Or will ever do. I typically don't read books with maps at the beginning. Seriously. If you need a map...okay, never mind. That's a whole other blog post. And this is the longest parenthetical ever.)

But it was great to hear someone else talk about research in the way that I would. Because, let's face it, most of you out there are some sort of genetic mutation that actually likes researching. Go ahead, admit it. I don't let things like that color my judgement. Very often. *wink*

Oh, and go get THE SCORCH TRIALS. You won't be sorry. By the way, we're discussing THE MAZE RUNNER every day this week on The League blog--go check us out! I'm up on Friday.

How about you? Do you look at maps whilst researching? Do you like research? What would your gangsta name be if you could pick your own? And what would you choose for mine?

62 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't like research either. But I am amazed at some of the research writers do, even for fantasies. And it does make their stories great.

I'll admit I am starting to research for my next book idea, but it'll be interesting--magical creatures and folklore. At least I hope so.

Emily White said...

Most of what I write uses stuff I've already researched over the years just for the fun of it. I know, I'm a dork. But I love learning little tidbits about all sorts of things!

Julia Karr said...

Uh... yeah... I used a magnifying glass and a city map to get exact locations where I wanted them to be in XVI. And, I am a researcher - dyed in the wool!

That's the 4-1-1 from J-Mo to EJ-Mama.

The Golden Eagle said...

I don't often look at maps when I'm making up a story, but I do enjoy looking at the ones in the front of the books, sometimes.

I don't really like research, but finding out more non-fiction facts that relate to a world I'm building can be interesting.

Hmmm. EJ would be a good gangsta name.

Jemi Fraser said...

I can't believe I haven't read Maze Runner yet. In my defense I just ordered it on the weekend in my classroom book order. Can't wait!! :)

E.J. Wesley said...

My story has a lot of tech and is set in the future, so I kind of troll for cool fringe tech news on occasion. I prefer to think of it as more browsing with a purpose than researching. It's stuff I'd read even if I weren't trying to write a book with it, so I'm not sure it even counts.

I think your genre will dictate the level of research you have to do. It seems like historical fiction might demand a good deal more research than some other kinds of writing, and so forth.

I'm not going to lie, I'd love to be the cat that has all of the maps and spends 15 years researching before writing (they're called PhDs in my part of the world ...), but I'm not sure I have it in me.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I looove researching, and yes, I've even checked out google maps for the city my made up one is loosely based on.

I would never draw a map of my own, and I don't bother to look at the ones included in books. I mean really, it's not like I'm planning to drive to any of the locations. ;)

Christina Lee said...

cee-lee over here, checking in! hahahaha yeah, research is like going to the dentist. But some is necessary. I love that he said that!

Renae said...

It's so refreshing to hear that not everyone spends weeks before starting a ms researching! I spend maybe a few minutes on Google and the rest I make up as I go along.

Ted Cross said...

For the book I am currently working on I am trying to figure out what guns may be like around the year 2130. I also need to figure out what kind of jobs will still be around then.

Lydia Kang said...

It depends on what I'm writing. For historical plots, yeah I practically had to take a course, self-taught, on my time period and people. For other stuff, not as much.

Hmm, gangster name? Oh, man, do you really want to go by E-Jo?
How 'bout B-Love? (bacon love? or book lover, depending on what you prefer?)

Quinn said...

I'm a fan of research either, never have been. Having said that, I will look up stuff if I don't think I know enough. Like, I the MC in my book gets held on a 72 hour psychiatric hold. I looked up some of the legal issues and what happens during that. But, eventually (after thirty minutes or so) I got tired of researching and just wrote.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I had a serious map crisis while doing my first-round edits and ended up moving my protagonist's home from one section of Kansas to another.

Might not sound like a big deal, but I needed the proper climate, landscape, and access to a railroad all in the time frame I'd written.

Whew!

Laura Pauling said...

Sigh. I like research only because of the interesting facts I learn that usually help my story. I don't often look at maps in the front of story (aren't they more for affect anyway?) but I will look at google maps to get authentic street names and get a feel for a neighborhood if I don't live there.

salarsenッ said...

I actually like research. I'm a huge history buff, so exploration is cool to me. I did look at a map for my current ms; however, for the purposes of the story I stretched the map a tad. lol

Matthew Rush said...

I LOVE maps. Don't worry though Elana, we can still be friends.

My gangster name is DJ Mink One. Seriously.

I'm not huge into research though. I did have to do some for my current WIP because although I knew a little about Hanzi/Kanji it wasn't enough to write about it properly. It wasn't much fun though.

Summer said...

My research is strange and assorted,questions like "can beer freeze?" and "how much radiation can the human body withstand?" Stuff like that.

For my dystopian novel last year, I drew out maps of the world as they knew it, but only for my own benefit.

As for other research, I'll do some book time for mythologies, but mostly for my own enlightenment, and rarely for longer than an hour or two.

SusanneWrites said...

I don't like research, but I like maps even less...lol
Most of the time some research is necessary for my books, but I try to keep it to a minimum. :D

Elena Solodow said...

J-Dash! Yes! I'll hop on that train.

I've never been a fan of research either. I figure it'll sound better if I make up my own laws of physics rather than explain them to the reader based on a Wikipedia article.

Angela Felsted said...

Research isn't my favorite thing. I usually only do it if I have to. But do you know what's really sad? I've never read MAZE RUNNER and I've only heard great things about it. Time to get on the ball, huh?

lbdiamond said...

I do enjoy researching if I have a VERY specific question to answer. I also REALLY enjoy winging it...which has a whole other set of problems attached to it, LOL!

Ian said...

I'm not a big researcher; if it can't be found on Google....

Most of the time, my outline IS my research, but I have been known to stop tapping away long enough to do a quick search on something I really don't have a clue about.

Michelle McLean said...

Hi, I'm Michelle and I'm a genetic mutation ;-D

Okay, so I occasionally like me some research - you still love me right? :)

I don't really do the map thing - I have looked up locations before. But I find it a bit easier to just let my imagination run wild. I do write historicals though, mostly, so research is sort of necessary for me :)

For my first book I actually emailed a horticultural society in England to ask what kinds of flowers bloomed in the winter over there. And then the other day...I cut that section from my book. Killed me to cut it since I went through all the trouble to find the info, but, yeah...gotta do what you gotta do :)

Annette Lyon said...

Knowing James personally, I'd say he wasn't exaggerating!

I used to despise research. I've come to like it at times, when it's necessary. But other times--yowza!

T C Mckee said...

Oh I am straight up geekin over here. I research everything right down to belly button lint (the kids wanted to know why it's always blue no matter the color of Dad's shirt). TaaDaa! Google had the answer! I have dabbled in maps a bit but that was for my own benefit. I like to get a visual of something. Sometimes it really helps with description. That's just how Lil-T rolls. Great questions Miss El-J. Holla

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I do just enough research to get me started, and if there's something I don't know along the way, I look it up. But how much I do depends on the subject I'm working with. I like to base my fantasy in very realistic settings, so the setting should be accurate (my last story dealt with homelessness, so it was important to me to get that one right in order to do it justice--and in fact, led me to volunteering regularly at a soup kitchen--and now I've set a story based on a place I've never been, and while my own world is fictionalized, I want it to feel as real as possible by pulling in very realistic elements...competing w/ longest parenthetical ever). That said, I think it's too easy to get bogged down in research. And what's the point of writing fantasy if you can't just make something up? So what if it's later tested on MythBusters and proved to be absurd? It can still be a crazy cool concept that doesn't exist...

Lost track of what the heck I was talking about. Sorry.

J-Dash rocks, Grand Master E-Dog.

j.leigh.bailey said...

I have looked at maps during research. For a post apoc. story I'm working on, I needed to know where the major fault lines in the US were and for my YA paranormal, I needed to know the geological makeup of Minnesota. Mostly I research enough that I don't sound like an ass, but not enough to be an expert. Wikipedia is my friend. I find it fascinating--I used to love researching for term papers and the like--but usually I just want to get whatever little factoid I'm looking for and get back to the WIP.

Meredith said...

I try to avoid research if at all possible. Though I did read a lot about fairy tales for my first WiP, but that was fun research!

paulgreci said...

For some stories my life as a teacher was the research. For, another, I've had to look some medical things up. Do I like research, yes, some of it, especially for later drafts when I'm pretty sure that thing I'm researching will actually be in the story :-)

Carolyn V. said...

I should have known James would have his own gangster name one day. lol!

If the story calls for it, I do the map research.

Sara B. Larson said...

Yeah, James would totally make you give him a gangsta name. Just admit it, he forced you. Ha ha. jk! ;) As for you, hmmm.... E-2-the-J-tizzle. Yep, there you go. Best gangsta name ever.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm sorry...did you have a question? I'm still drooling over J-Dash! You knew this post would elevate my heart rate, didn't you? Scorch was awesome! Although he put us through a bit of the Peeta/Katniss experience! :-)

Tina Lynn said...

Did someone say research? *shudders* Heh heh. Yeah, I don't like that either. Unless watching super cool sci-fi flicks counts as research :D

Lisa Potts said...

I hate research for the simple reason that it distracts me. I could start out looking for the simplest thing, then get pulled in five thousand directions usually having nothing to do with my original quest.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I enjoy research. Ew, I’m one of those. I like to weave a little truth behind some of the odder things I come up with.

Nichole Giles said...

I hate research, but find I have to do a tiny, minor amount from time to time. Maybe that's one more reason I should go completely dark and write dystopian?

Gangsta name? Hm. I'll have to give that one some thought.

SWK said...

Do I like research? No. Do I do it? Yes. I write contemporary YA fiction so I kind of have to. I've got this weird compulsion for getting climates and landscapes right. Also diseases. There's a horse in my latest ms and I even went and rode one despite being very allergic to hay and having to pretty much drink an entire bottle of Benadryl to get through it without my lungs shutting down. Sigh. I really wish I liked research. Also wish I'd gotten some prescription allergy medicine before the insane horse adventure. - Stasia

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

I do a lot of research...but it's not really research. I write fantasy, so I have to build my own world. (not the kind that needs a map in the front of the book though :P) So yeah, I've had to research to help me find ideas--cause there's a LOT to figure out, and apparently I'm not creative enough to come up with it all off the top of my head. So I do a lot of random wikipedia browsing, searching for inspiration. It's actually not as boring as it sounds...

:)

Janet Johnson said...

I'm middle ground on the research. Some of it I find fascinating and have to pull myself away to actually write. Other stuff, not so much. Boring detail stuff. YOU know.

Still waiting to finish Maze Runner. Started it the last day of vacation, but it wasn't my book. Doh!

Write Chick said...

I really don't mind research. It gives me something to do when I get stuck in my ms. Research helps me cure writer's block. When I can't think of what comes next, I start doing research for another part of my book and usually it gives me inspiration for the next thing. Kinda weird, but a lot of what I write has medical aspects that have to be spot on, or else the story doesn't work.
My gangsta tag is Em Dog, so I shall dub you El Jay.

Lisa_Gibson said...

I'm not big on the whole research thing and might do a bit as I go along, cause I'm a pantster afterall.
Hmm, your gangsta' name ElJo. I kinda' like it and can't come up with anything better.
Mine? No idea. It's kinda' hard to make Lisa Gibson sound cool or gangsta'. Doesn't really have any street cred to it. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

No maps - not even one of the galaxy!
Guess I'd be AJ. Is that a gangster name?

Colene Murphy said...

Awe No! I like the maps!
oh well.
Can't wait to get to The Scorch Trials! Seems like I have been waiting YEARS for it to come out.
Love his gangsta name too btw.

Talli Roland said...

I'm not a big fan of research ever. But I do admit - I LOVE maps! Especially Google StreetView. It's so fun!

Angie said...

I actually do like doing research, but lately I've been using the quick and dirty method myself. Google something and get the basics so I (hopefully) don't sound like a fool. Except when it comes to fighter combat. That I did a ton of research for and have to consult my book again and again every time I write a fighter scene. I love those scenes, though so it's fun.

Krispy said...

It depends on what I'm researching, but generally I like it because I'm a nerd and I love learning weird and random things. ON the other hand, it is very distracting, and I hate feeling OVERWHELMED with info.

I'm really glad he said that and to hear your non-researchyness because usually when I start something, I don't research. I just go with it. I only research if I ABSOLUTELY must. I figure I should just make stuff up and fill in blanks with research later? :P

Erica M. Chapman said...

Ugh, Research... nope not a fan, but alas it must be done, right? I tend to do it as I write (I know it's bad) Mostly just cities and such, maybe some religious stuff for my current WIP (set in Purgatory) But other than that, I haven't done much. But I'm sure that will change ;o)

Hmm Gangsta names - E-dog, that could work for either of us ;o)

Tere Kirkland said...

I eat up research, but I guess it's just a holdover from my art history days.

For one of my trunked WiPs, the research helped to define the some of the subplots, and for another wip set in multiple locations, the research I did for the settings also contributed to the work.

There are definitely stories that don't need as much research, like the one I'm writing now, but I think if the story is set in a location you're unfamiliar with, a research session can really help make the story come to life, and add some unexpected plot lines!

Also, I love maps, and hope to someday write a book where I'd include one. Yes, I'm that much of a dork. ;)

Kittie Howard said...

I'm hoping Dashner did more research than he said! I can't count the number of books I've tossed into the commercial junk heap because of sloppy research, never to buy anything by that author again! I'm presently reading a book by Daniel Silva...left the characters in Zurich, a city I know well... I haven't lost a beat reading because Silva's characters move within the city in places that are accurate.

Yes, I research. Poor research breaks the aesthetic distance.

Marsha Sigman said...

I admit it. I am a mutant.

I am working on my fourth manuscript and I have to say that now I am like a deep well of useless boring trivia. Because research leads to more and more...

Hannah Kincade said...

I love research and I love maps! They are mostly for me though. I never look at ones in books unless I'm having a hard time understanding. And is that really my fault?

Bethany Mattingly said...

I'm not really a researcher. I'll do some but just until I can get the terms right. I can work a lot better by just grabbing some pictures.I generally don't write what I don't know or can't create. I can't wait until I can check out his books!

WritingNut said...

I think I might be a little bit of both. The thing is.. I have no self control... when I start researching, one thing always leads to another, and before I know it, I'm off on some random topic that I can't remember how I even got to in the first place!

I've been itching to read these books, thanks for the heads up :)

Maybe I could be.... W-Nut? Or Wri-N?... Bah... I don't know.. I totally suck at this game ;)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I really enjoy research. The BBC has some great links and articles...The mg hf I'm working on right now is set in a town in England. I haven't been there since I was little. But...they have a website (smile) with maps on it...and all kinds of great information.

Jay said...

Wow - I feel so much better about myself now. Research, you say? Isn't that why google exists? Maybe a teeny bit of research up front so I haven't just outright lied about some factual thing, and then it's pretty much "just-in-time-research". Need a small fishing village on coastal Long Island? Google.

At a conference a couple of years ago, I was made to feel entirely inadequate while listening to Jodi Picoult describe the research she does. She traveled around with the Ghost Hunters peeps for one book! She had beaver ball soup with an Eskimo after traveling 65 miles on a snow mobile in Alaska.

L.T. Elliot said...

Sometimes I do research, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I get frickin' lost in it. I'm evaluating it right now and seeing what I want.

Your gansta name? El-J. The dash be silent. ;)

Nicole Zoltack said...

I love to research, whether it for my medieval fantasy novels or to look up details on a paranormal creature. I can get lost in research. There's just so much to explore! But maps... nope.

Donea Lee said...

I think that's the beauty of fiction, isn't it? You can just make convincing stuff up and you're golden! But - no, I put in a little research time with my writing if it requires it. And it usually does. A necessary evil - even in fiction.

Haven't read The Maze Runner yet. (Eeek!) I know, I know - it's on my list. I'm a little behind. Just finished the Hunger Games series last week!

Can't think of a great gansta name for myself... D Lee (weak), The Weave (all I think is hair extensions), D.W. (Arthur flashbacks)...I'll think about it some more.

And actually, "E.J." kind of sounds like a good gansta name for you. :)

Jeff King said...

awesome info... and great responces.

Heather B. Moore said...

I not only look at maps, I create my own for my books (well, with the help of an excellent map designer).

My gansta name would be: Heat

Is that gansta enough?

Regina said...

Constantly checking the maps for research ideas and finding interesting places.

Gangsta name: Gino

TerryLynnJohnson said...

LOVE J-Dash. My man's favourite author. We just finished Scorch Trials. SO good!I'm heading to your blog to check out the discussions!
Dude, we share a last name. We could be T-Jo and E-Jo! But, that would probably get us shanked.

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