A young writer in a Linkedin writers group to which I belong posted a question asking other members about the need for research when writing ficton. I posted the following contribution. I could have given many other examples, but this, I think, sufficient enough to make the point.
A high school English teacher told us, “You can’t write what you don’t know.” So, if you don’t have first-hand experience, you better learn it from research. Anyone who is the least bit knowledgeable on something you have written about will discount your credibility in all areas if you show you don’t know what you’re writing about. [Yeah, yeah, run-on sentence!] Being a lawyer, I can tell immediately if someone has never watched a real trial (or read transcripts) and all s/he knows about a courtroom is what s/he saw on TV (usually the worse possible source!) Another example is someone who tries to write about firearms and doesn’t know the difference between a clip and magazine, or a cartridge and a bullet. (Even if you hate guns, if you are going to write about them, go to a gun range, rent a gun, and take one lesson. FEEL the recoil, HEAR how loud it really is, SMELL the burnt cordite.)