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I have a couple questions for you.

First, when writing a novel, what is the best way of going about doing research? I pretty much know how to do major research, like if my main character is a Catholic, I can look up their beliefs and lifestyle habits. But what about the mundane stuff? THe stuff you almost have to experience in order to know. I don't know how to look up what it would be like to live in a big city for example.

Secondly, if I have a story set in a small town, how should I do that? Should I use an existing town, or make one up? And if I make it up, how can I make it geographically accurate, just place the fictitious town where a real town is, and build around that?

And lastly, my vocabulary doesn't seem as flowery as some I've read. Does it matter if my word choices are a little more plain than others, or should I start doing word-building exercises?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my inquiry.

Hi Andrew,

You seem to have a good idea about research. I recommend you look up pictures and read stories that are related to the "mundane" things. To carry your big city example, I would recommend that you look at pictures of big cities, read stories and novels that take place there, and maybe talk to people who have spent lots of time in big cities. You might also read scholarly papers about city populations, crime, pollution, etc.

If you have a story set in a small town, you can either make one up or use a real town. It depends on what you're aiming for. If you're aiming for a regionalism-type realism, use the real town. If the town itself isn't that important, feel free to use a fictitious one, though I'm not sure about replacing a "real" town with it. The best reason to use a fictitious town is that you aren't too familiar with the place you're writing about. Better to use something fake than to write something inaccurate that has people saying, 'bwuh? That's not how it is!'

Remember, if you're going to replace a real town for a fictitious one, you may need to research how the real town runs. For example, if the town is a very rural one, medical care may be a concern. If it's a town in a desert area, water will be a big concern. Environmental concerns might come into play, also.

Finally, stay away from flowery vocabulary. You don't want to sound choppy or overly simplistic, so if your vocabulary is really deficient, word-building exercises would be ideal. However, remember that using too much flowery language is considered the mark of an amateur. It may also irritate your readers.

You might try reading some of the critical analyses of the book Eragon ( to get an idea of how readers may react to verbose writing.

I hope that I haven't written too much. Good luck and happy writing!

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I can answer almost any question on the mechanics that go into writing a full-length novel (80,000-100,000 words): characterization, setting, plot, world-building, dialogue, etc. I can answer some questions on the aspect of publishing, but I'm not one hundred percent familiar with it. I specialize in science fiction, fantasy crossovers (sometimes called science-fantasy) and am very familiar with the idea and technique of crossing genres, such as horror with science fiction, romance, and western.


I have been writing for almost ten years now as a hobby.

High School graduate with close to 45 hours of concurrent classes, most of them English and creative writing classes. I have taken literature classes as high as the 400 mark.

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