Have you ever read something about a topic you’re really familiar with and immediately thought, “This doesn’t sound right”? It’s a common experience for many of us. When writers don’t do their homework, it shows. From glaring mistakes to missing key details, these slip-ups can be easy to spot if you know what to look for. So, what are the clear signs that a writer might have skipped the research part? Let’s dive into this and find out how to spot when someone’s writing about something they might not know much about.
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- Writers often get details about storms and tornadoes wrong, like issuing tornado warnings prematurely or misrepresenting tornado characteristics.
- Common errors include unrealistic depictions of hacking and computer hardware capabilities, as well as incorrect portrayal of video game playing in media.
- writers sometimes include anachronistic elements in historical settings, such as using tomatoes in medieval European cuisine or misunderstanding the importance of skills like sewing in historical contexts.
Recently, on Reddit, people have been sharing stories about how they can tell when a writer hasn’t really researched a topic they know well. It all started with someone mentioning a book they read in high school. The book had a tennis scene, but it got the scoring all wrong, calling it “45-love” instead of “game point.”
This mistake was easy to spot for anyone who knows tennis. This post led to a bunch of other Reddit users chiming in with their own examples. So, let’s see what things are usually not portrayed right in books and media in general.
Severe Wheather Conditions
The conversation started with a Redditor pointing out how badly some writers and movie directors can set the scene when there’s a tornado or a storm involved.
“Weather, specifically severe storms and tornadoes, is so easy to get right with even surface level research that it makes me want to tear my hair out. Some more egregious examples include: Issuing tornado warnings before the storm has even formed (that’s what a watch is for), giving tornado ratings before the tornado forms or while it is on the ground (we can now kinda ballpark it with radar, but all ratings are done post event), tornadoes having a calm center “eye” like a hurricane (It’s a giant blender full of debris, and even if it did have an “eye” they move too fast), just to name a few.”
However, as the discussion continued, it seemed like not so many people in real life could see the difference as well.
Programming and Video Games
Computer science, IT, and all the stuff related to the technological scene seems like an easy subject to research nowadays. Nevertheless, a lot of authors and screenwriters, as it turned out, decided to skip this step of the preparation process and just wrotee from their own knowledge and expectations:
“Hacking. The speed and ferocity is something commonly shown incorrectly, but another is hardware. You’re not going to break into an encrypted database on a secure network with a Macbook. Brute forcing requires server farms worth of power.”
Programming and hacking are relatively hard subjects, so, for some, it may seem understandable that writers of all kinds skip on details in these fields. Especially since most people, who aren’t related to the technical field, won’t question anything anyway. However, it’s yet unclear how the act of playing video games can be so wrongly portrayed in the media.
“There’s countless examples of video games being portrayed really weirdly in media, particularly television. I immediately think of some kid wildly waving like a Super Nintendo controller around while playing some modern generic royalty-free Call of Duty clone.”
“My favourite is when they mash the buttons like they’re playing a hack&slash game while the screen shows a 3d platformer or mario kart.”
Period dramas and romantic novels are very popular among book and screenwriters alike. This might have meant that they are mostly accurately written, but, unfortunately, as Redditors showed, it doesn’t mean anything. Even though it might not take more than a few hours to read through the specifics of one particular historical period, no one wants to go even to that length in their stories.
“Characters eating anything with tomatoes in medieval Europe. Makes me think the author did zero research as to what people ate in medieval Europe.”
“related: works that talk about sewng being “dumb girl’s stuff” that the ~badass~ protag would never do instead of a critical life skill in a world without sewing machines (which still take work to master!), off the rack clothing, etc.”
Health & Medical Assistance
Another popular field of mistakes was mentioned to be related to health and medical care. Biology books are not rare, as well as nursing guides and other medical literature. But who needs to read anything of that sort if you write something from your head, right?….Right??
“I don’t know a ton about this, but all media from top to bottom seems to believe that bonking someone one the head with a blunt object merely results in an “unscheduled nap.” The fact is that if you’re out for more than a second or two, you likely have permanent brain damage. Especially without modern medical care.”
The Authors Who Knew All Much Too Well
However, in some cases, authors and film directors apparently knew the topic so well that it even got to the point of suspicion. Especially when it came to the topics of authority and government establishments.
“Take the contrary, tom clancy. Knew the subject so well he was invited to the white house to ply him for how he knew what he knew.”
And even though there seem to be a few other similar cases, there are still too few of them compared to the authors getting it all wrong in their writing.
How to do Proper Research for Book Writing
As we can see, research is an important part of the writing process. However, it is also necessary to keep a balance between writing and researching because you might end up with a lot of information and zero text for your story.
The key is to know when to say, “Pencils down.” While research is crucial, it’s also important to remember that a book is more than just a collection of facts; it’s a narrative that needs to be written and completed. The following strategies can help you navigate this challenge:
- Stop When in Doubt: If you feel like you might be done with your research, trust your instincts.
- Backload Research: Write your draft first and research later to maintain momentum.
- Use ‘TK’ for Unfinished Parts: Mark areas that need research with ‘TK’ and continue writing.
- Turn Off the Internet: Disconnect from online distractions while writing your draft.
- Stay Organized: Keep your research materials well-organized for easy access later.
- Use Red Text for Unresearched Areas: Highlight sections that need further research with red text.
- Consider Outsourcing Research: Hiring help for research can be an efficient way to gather information.
- Batch Your Research: Once your draft is complete, go back and fill in the research gaps all at once.
- Finish Your Draft: Focus on completing your draft rather than getting bogged down in perfecting your research.
By following these tips, you can effectively manage the research process and ensure that you progress toward completing your book, avoiding the trap of endless research.
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