Fiction Research by Christine London

Fiction Requires Research?

open-book-on-dark-backgroundResearch for fiction might seem oxymoronical. I assure you, it is not. Creating a world that the reader feels requires keen observation in the classroom of life. While works of non-fiction focus with laser precision on one aspect of nature, history or thought; fiction bathes in what is essential to every living being. Our cultural differences colour the palette, but the stuff of emotions is shared across cultures and time.

To effectively resonate with readers, an author must capture the nucleus of humanity. No matter the time or setting, it takes a keen sense of humanity and nuance to weave a tale that rings true-to-the-bone.

To say the best works of fiction come from mature authors is a generalization. Like urban legends, however, they are often steeped in truth. Most mere mortals take decades of emersion in the delicious complexities of the world to distill them into spot-on fiction. A special combination of extraordinary acuity meeting a deeply contemplative nature are the basic ingredients.

maps A spoke off Leicester Square London, I approached the Ivy Restaurant with caution and delight. Online research gave statistics and photos, but nothing can equal being there. The Ivy, my research uncovered, is a haunt of celebrity, its staff well trained in discretion. Cracking this nut was going to be tough. A years wait for reservations not uncommon, it is one of those places, low key, unpretentious, bland exterior–the stuff of incognito.


My novel required just such a place for its Hollywood actor to court his lady. A dark corner, discreet staff, no autograph seekers to interrupt.

imgres I approached the first line of defense. The front podium interrogation station, an intimidating sea of massive walnut raising the stern-faced hostess with pasted-on smile above all. No magic password, I used the ‘author doing research’ story and a fan of bookmark cards to crack her reserve. My American accent charmed.

“You may go as far as the Maître de station, centre of the dining room.” A nod of her chin directed me onward through glass-paneled swinging imgres doors. Lit like the vestibule of a cathedral, stained glass kept prying eyes from gaining access to diner’s I.D. and warmed the wood paneled, linen-dressed room in ancient reverence. Voices, like the distant drone of bees, hushed upon my entrance.

Cloaked gazes of interest and query met my decidedly displaced presence. Though I wore class denim and smart blazer, I still stood out as foreign, maybe celeb? To pull out a camera at this point would probably be met with imgres arrest, so memory would have to do. Not unlike one of those life altering moments when reality outdoes the imagined, I etched the room onto my internal tin type, leaving the faces blank.

I got what I needed to make the high romance of my novel effective, the staff got a jolly good story about the author from “Las Angeleez” and my small entourage of friends awaiting curbside snickered all the way to the local pub.

Christine London was born in Chicago, Illinois, but left the long winters of the Midwest as a child to find her roots in the sun and charm of California, both North and South. Her adopted home became Great Britain when she spent a year of college in the east end of London with three male flat mates; one from each country on the main island. Her fascination and love affair with all things British has grown over the years, facilitated by summers spent trading houses.

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One comment

  1. Niki Chanel says:

    Agreed; research is king. If fact, I’d go so far as to say research is more important in contemporary fiction than in historicals as there are far more readers that would recognize inconsistencies in stories of their own time than of bygone generations. Historical authors put in plenty of research to keep us believing in their world.

    Loved the insight to The Ivy! Thanks, Christine.


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