Research for Writing: A Cautionary Tale

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Editor’s Note: this post has been written by Steve Papesh, an Education major and Chinese minor at Lewis University. Steve is interning with the Jet Fuel Review this semester and will be contributing blog posts periodically.

Research for Writing

If you write a piece that has a gun in it, wouldn’t it be a good idea to know something about guns?

If there is one thing that I have learned as an English student, it is that writers need to be very cautious about what they put into their writing, because, apparently, readers are going to dissect every tiny aspect your writing looking for some sort of subtext.

If you write a murder mystery, and have your protagonist holding a Lugar rather than a Colt 45, you need to be aware that someone reading that piece might decide that you are actually writing Nazi propaganda.

Once in a creative writing class I was asked to write a poem from the persona of a ballerina from Broadway who could no longer dance. Like many guys, I did not know anything about ballet so when I was asked to write from this persona I was none too happy. I spent hours studying terminology, different ballets, and anything else I could find to help me understand what ballet is all about. Even though the persona was alien to me, I believe that the poem I wrote was at least believable. I may never try to publish the poem that I wrote, but I may be able to apply what I learned to another piece that I write.

Who knows when it will be useful to know something about what a pas de deux is or what the effects of a torn ACL ligament are. Research helps us broaden our horizons as people and subsequently as writers.

— Steve Papesh

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