When writing a novel, screenplay, stage play, or documentary, the importance of research is paramount. In order for your story to have credence, depth, originality, believability, you must do your homework!!
It is one thing to come up with a salable high concept that is clever, unique, never-before produced. HOWEVER, your audience is not stupid. They hate to be swindled. No matter where your setting is, you need to do your H.W. and get down the “where, when, why, and how” part of your story. Even the “who” part will become more clear as you do your research.
Let’s say, you’ve got an idea of a modern-day character, an archaeologist, who lives in Jerusalem, but who is giving a lecture in Switzerland. Your genre is action adventure. Your character has discovered a stone that is 5,000 years old, but was not affixed to other stones with metal of any kind, yet was laid in a perfect line, with cement, and the walls of a particular structure are thirty feet high.
Here’s some history that is the result of just a tiny bit of research:
In 832 BCE, King David wanted to build the Temple, but because he was Israel’s great warrior and had shed much blood, he could not be the one to build the Temple in Jerusalem. His son, Solomon (Shlomo), was chosen through one of the prophets to build the Temple. As part of the process, God told Solomon to not cut the stones with metal utensils or tools because metal symbolizes the sword. Therefore, Solomon had to figure out a way to cut the stones for the construction of the Temple. In a dream, he saw a unique worm that had the ability to cut away at stone. Subsequently, God revealed to him this miraculous worm that was able to cut the stones for the Temple.
The worm was called the Ashmodi, in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate of Shabbat.
Now, maybe you don’t “buy” the information that came to Solomon in a dream—But your characters do! They believe in prophets and dreams and in the ancient men of the period who talked to God. Why? Well, you have to give these believers a history that would tie them to such a belief. Maybe they saw this worm at work. Maybe there was testimony in texts.
In any case, a bit more of research about Jerusalem will give you a sense of where your archaeologist character comes from, which in turn, will make your story more believable:
Your character’s home is Jerusalem.
Jerusalem stands on the crest of the Judean hills at an elevation of 2,577 feet above sea-level, 13 miles west of the Dead Sea, 32 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea, and roughly 80 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. Founded more than 5,000 years ago, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the Jewish people.
Recommended reading: Traveling With the Bible, by Galia Doron. Take book in hand and envision a walk through time over stone steps. Remember that the steps can tell the stories of both ancient and modern mankind in Israel, the Holy Land, and the world. In the book, suggested hikes with level of difficulty are given for each historical/biblical site. Quotations from the Bible and references are included for each site you will visit. Whether you come to Israel or just read about the history, the information will help you with your story lines.