The Role of Research in Creative Writing: How to Balance Fact and Fiction

Most people don't associate research with creative writing, here is why you should...

Why is Research Important in Fiction Writing?

Creative writing, at its core, is about using your imagination and crafting compelling stories and characters. However, research can also play a crucial role in enhancing the authenticity and depth of a story.

As writers, it is our responsibility to take the reader to new worlds, to provide them with characters and stories that they have never experienced before, and to transport them there through our words...

But in order for this to be accomplished successfully, we need to make sure that both these worlds and these personalities are genuine and real.

This is where you should start your research!

The purpose of research isn't just to create believability; it's also about respect.

When we write about real-world issues or cultures we don't belong to, we must do our due diligence.

Not doing so, can very easily lead to issues such as cultural appropriation or misrepresentation. With adequate research, this can easily be avoided!

What is the Relationship Between Creative Nonfiction and Creative Writing?

Creative nonfiction and creative writing may seem synonymous at first look. When you think about it, both genres share the common goal of employing imaginative means to convey the truth.

There are, nevertheless, important distinctions between the two. Creative nonfiction refers to narratives that are based on real events but are told in a fictional style.

Various methods can be used for this, such as narrating a story or describing a setting. Creative nonfiction can take several forms, including memoirs, biographies, and essays.

Conversely, the word "creative writing" can be used to describe any type of writing that makes use of the author's imagination and creativity.

This can include fiction, poetry, and evenplays.

While creative writing can certainly be based on real events or people, it is not bound by the constraints of truth.

Instead, it allows writers to use their imaginations to create new worlds and characters, to explore alternate realities, and to tell stories that may or may not be based in fact.

Despite these differences, there is definitely some overlap between the genres. For the majority of creative nonfiction writers, they use creative techniques to bring their stories to life. Likewise, many creative fiction writers, base their work on real events or people.

Some examples of how the two crossover:

Fact-based storytelling

Creative writing and creative nonfiction can both involve telling a factual tale in a way that is intriguing and interesting to the reader.

Creative nonfiction writers may use literary techniques such as character development and plot structure to bring their stories to life, while creative fiction writers may use similar techniques to craft a story that is based on real events.

Creative nonfiction writers may also use literary techniques to bring their stories to life.

The use of creative techniques

The use of imaginative methods to bring a tale to life is not limited to the genre of creative nonfiction. This could involve use figurative language, metaphor, or storytelling.

The blurring of lines

As mentioned earlier, there is often overlap between the two genres.

Some works of creative nonfiction may combine reality with imagination or personal interpretation, blurring the line between fiction and nonfiction. 

In a similar vein, certain works of imaginative fiction may be inspired by actual persons or occurrences.


People often think of them as fact or non-fiction, but a memoir tells the story of a person's life. It can be a highly personal and emotional form of writing, and it often involves the use of creative techniques to bring the story to life.

Some memoirs might blur the lines between fact and fiction, incorporating elements of imagination or interpretation into their stories.

Historical fiction

Historical fiction is a type of creative writing that is set in the past and is often based on real events or people. It allows writers to use their imaginations to explore what might have happened in a particular time and place, and it often involves the use of creative techniques to bring the story to life.

Biographical novels

A biographical novel is a form of creative writing that tells the story of a real person's life. It allows writers to use their imaginations to explore the life of a real person and to fill in the gaps where there may be limited information.

How Do You Research for Creative Writing?

Creative writing research can be a complex and multifaceted process, but it's a necessity when it comes to creating believable and authentic stories.

The key is to determine the type of research needed for your project and gather information from a variety of reliable sources.

On a basic level, you need to consider the kind of information that will be useful for your writing.

For example, if you are writing about a specific time period or historical eventt, you'll want to research the historical context, clothing, and cultural norms of that era.

Likewise, if you're writing about a particular profession, you might want to research the duties, skills, and equipment used by those in that field.

Once you have an idea of what you are looking for, you can start gathering information from a variety of sources. Books, articles, and websites can all be helpful, as can experts and in-person visits to relevant locations.

Just be sure to check the credibility of your sources and to consider getting information from multiple sources to ensure a well-rounded understanding of your topic.

As you gather information, it is important to take notes and keep track of your sources. This will make it easier to refer back to specific pieces of information later and to avoid plagiarism.

Make sure you include the title, author, and publication date of each source in your notes.

Most importantly, verify the accuracy of your information!

Check the credibility of your sources, and consider cross-checking information from multiple sources to confirm its accuracy.

This will help you avoid mistakes and ensure that your writing is believable and trustworthy)

Do You Need To Fact-Check Everything?

Of course not!

The beauty of creative writing is that it allows writers to use their imaginations and to explore alternate realities.

While it is important to be mindful of the ethical considerations of using real people and events in fiction, and to avoid misrepresentation or plagiarism, there is no need to fact-check every single detail in a work of creative writing.

That being said, it can be helpful to do some research and to incorporate real-world elements into your writing.