Writing, Arts & Entertainment

Research Methods and Sources, Part 1

David Baldacci

Lesson time 14:20 min

Firsthand research brings depth and breadth to your story. David discusses why he recommends visiting locations in person, talking directly to people, and creating a battle plan.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Live Your Research • Create a Battle Plan • Choose Locations That Rise to the Level of Character • Leave Almost All of It Out: Zero Day


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Research, for me, is critical because the worlds I write about are pretty complicated. But they're also a definite thing. If I write about the military, I really can't make stuff up. If I write about Secret Service agents who pull wands out and can fly, I mean, nobody's going to read the book. So I had to learn about those things. As a writer, you have to take off the novelist hat, and you put on the journalist cap. My older sister was a journalist. And I used to go-- when I was in college, I would go with her on her beat and see how she interviewed people and gained their confidence and trust and all that. So I go in. And you know, I figure out how to get to people that I need to know things about. And I interview them, become a journalist, and have conversations and learn a lot. I go to the places that I write about because I want to see it firsthand and have a visceral connection to it. I don't like getting things third hand from people because that puts their opinions and their biases into what I'm trying to find out. So if you take the time to go out and learn about the stuff firsthand, you'll bring a depth and a breadth of both plotting and writing to your prose that will lift you up of the slush piles and actually enhance your chances of getting picked up by a publisher or an agent. Every book that I've written, I've done a ton of research for all of them. And I think the books are far better because of it, and I think yours will be, too. [MUSIC PLAYING] I will say that research also can help you be a better writer, in that it can give you a really emotional connection to what you're writing about. I'll give an example. I'm not a gun aficionado. I don't own guns. I have fired pretty much every gun ever manufactured just for purposes of researching my novels-- everything from a six shooter up to a .50 cal machine gun. And when you write about firing an MP5 which can fire 40 rounds and about a second and a half-- so you could kill 40 people in one and a half seconds with this weapon-- to feel it against your chest as it thuds, as it vibrates, as you're firing and see this awesome field of just total annihilation in front of you, two emotions for me. One was like exhilaration-- because, you know, oh, well, that's kind of cool-- and utter terror. So when I have a character who fires a weapon like that, having felt that myself, I can draw upon my own personal experiences in better describing it. If I'd Wikipedia'd it, they would've told me that it shot 40 rounds in a second and a half. OK, you know? But to see it actually-- the devastation it could do to someone-- it's just a different level. And that's the difference between writing a book that's sort of mediocre and as opposed to one that is really dynamic and authentic and just feels at a different emotional level. And that's what research can provide. It's not just about finding out facts about stuff. It's about experiencing something. [...

About the Instructor

David Baldacci has captivated readers across the world with gripping, suspense-fueled thrillers. Now the New York Times–bestselling author of 38 novels shares his techniques for crafting authentic characters, developing research-based plots, and navigating the world of publishing. Learn how to write a novel with red herrings, clues, and plot twists that will keep your readers turning the pages.

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David Baldacci

In his MasterClass, bestselling thriller author David Baldacci teaches you how he fuses mystery and suspense to create pulse-pounding action.

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