Is it possible to write about a situation very precisely without even going through it?

I’ve been asked:   Can you write precisely about something you’ve never experienced?

Writers do it all the time and some of them do it very well. But there’s a caveat and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a big one.

You can picture the situation and imagine what it would be like and then you can put those imaginings down on paper. You’ll probably do a pretty good job if you’re writing a work of fiction and it’ll be okay because there’s some leeway in fiction.

On the other hand, if you are writing non-fiction or if you want a work of fiction to be realistic, then in addition to using your imagination, you must put in a lot of time doing research. A lot of time. A whole lot.

I’m not that ambitious. I love research but only about subjects that I’m truly interested in and then only in those aspects of those subjects that ‘grab’ me. But I know writers who spend hours, days, weeks and even years doing generalized research in order to get a specific situation right.

Are you willing to devote a potentially large portion of your life to learning about a general subject well enough to be precise about a part of that subject when writing about it?

Or are you comfortable learning just enough to get you through your manuscript and letting your imagination take over where your research leaves off?

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