EVERYTHING STARTS SOMEWHERE
Any journey, great or not, has a beginning. Before the first step is taken. Before the first bit of dusty road, stretch of water, or mile of empty air is traveled the trip is begun. It begins, first, with the desire to go from here to there. Next comes the questions of what mode of transportation will be necessary? Is it possible to pick between more than one? How far are we going? How long will it take? When we arrive, what will the weather be like? Do we speak the language? Do we carry the right currency? Will we be welcomed or regarded with something less than bonhomie?
This is the real life of the writer. All the minute details that make up the stories we compose. Who is the protagonist? Is this a man or woman, a boy or girl? How old? From where? Height, weight, complexion, hair color? What is their educational background and social position? What do they do for work? Married? Divorced? How many times? Straight? Gay? Bisexual? Asexual?
Where does this person live? Have they always lived there? Are they just passing through? What year is this? What else is going on in the world? Who is their main antagonist? Is this another character or are they in conflict with something inside themselves?
The more questions you can think of to ask about your story and the characters that populate it the better able you are to bring depth and insight into your creation. You may very well not use a fraction of what you uncover, but how much more rich a world you will lead your readers into.
I've encountered a number of writers who skip past this step. They wander about in incomplete surroundings trying to get us to believe in characters who lack emotion and lineage. They give them abilities or revelations that don't hold up to investigation. They put them in places that are no more than the empty facades on which Hollywood screenplays are too often hung. In the case of fantasy and heroic fiction, they arm them with weapons without having any idea how they are to be employed or, worse yet, endow them with some magical 'ability' to make up for any lack of connection to the believable.
Research is everything to a writer. From the inception of a tale to finding a plausible market for the finished product. How many times have I heard of writers just shot gunning something out there in hopes it would hit a target? The literary marketplace can be a cold and lonely enough place even when you think you've applied due diligence. Getting something, anything, published can be a real arduous trek and an incredible accomplishment. How much more so when you are approaching all the wrong people with the wrong goods?
Right now, I have several pieces of short fiction, a number of poems, and a completed novel out to different venues for consideration. I spent days and untold hours getting to know the inhabitants of the fictions I created. I invested weeks, months, and years in the writing and re-writing of every one of them. I spent time researching queries and submissions. I've retired any number of works to the, "I'll revisit that idea again" file. Nothing gets sent out or resubmitted without being re-read and if need be re-written.
What's my point? Nothing great was ever created from thin air. Nothing worth reading was without history and complexity. That which went into the story or the marketing. If it seems such a simple, but precise, concoction you want to bet it was sweat over and worried about. Every thing you do as a writer demands you to live in its skin and breath its air. Research is the blood of the written word. Without it, you're dancing with cadavers.