The story I am writing involves the 10 steps of turning a democracy into a police state. And to make it more real, I thught the people who are doing it should explain it to the main character relaistically. This would mean that I need to be aware of how it works, and historical examples. I am using Naomi Wolf's "The End of America" as a source of leaning about these steps. She references that the turn The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, when she about democracy closing down in tipping points, I found on the Wiki page for Turning Point an outline / summary of what it is. Should I read the 300 page book or just read a summary. The character isn't gonna go into so much detail about every information about the 10 steps. And with tipping points being one element of many, he is not going to talk super in depth about this once concept as Gladwell did? I know this could be in the Politics SE page, but it is more about whether this source is worth diving deep into - which seems to be fitterd here.

  • I think with reasearch on the internet, I could suffice with enough knowledge becuase the idea of a "Tipping Point" can relate to many things - not just a police state. Jan 19, 2013 at 19:44
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    Let us see... You write a story about certain, real topic. Your knowledge on that topic is limited. There is a book that explores it in depth. You hesitate about reading it as reference, much less to find it interesting enough to "swallow it" for its own merit. Yet you think you can write a story on that subject that will find eager readers - on the subject you, the writer don't find interesting enough to be its eager consumer. What makes you think your story will receive a better reception from its readers than "The Tipping Point" receives from you?
    – SF.
    Jan 20, 2013 at 1:14
  • True true. But my doubts was not only because I generally don't finish books because I don't get attached, but also because I am not sure if reading Tipping Points will really aid me in know about the 10 steps of forming a police state that much. Jan 20, 2013 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


Absolutely. I've read lots of books as research for writing stories, and I'm not even a compulsive researcher the way that some writers are.

However, there's an obvious limit on how much effort you can put into a short story. Perhaps reading a 300-page book is too much effort, or perhaps only a portion of the book would be relevant to you. In that case, I have one word for you: skim. Look at chapter and heading titles. Read the sections that are most relevant or interesting to you. Glance lightly over the rest. It's possible to get the most important bits of a very large book in a short space of time this way, and that may be just what you need in this case.

  • Thanks. I think the term was just referenced to the Author. Not sure if the ideas are really necessary to understand in the depth of his book. She eplains them as stair-steps. Jan 19, 2013 at 20:47

Yes, research is worthwhile - to a point.

This is difficult to answer because you're asking people to make a value judgment about how worthwhile research is. My opinion is that if your story is based on a concept, it behooves you to know about that concept.

If you want to base a story on a particular concept, then you need to decide how well you want to know that concept. If you decide that this will take more work than is warranted for a short story, then you have a few choices: abandon the story, write the story on sketchy information, or decide that the story could end up being the seed for a longer project. for that last option, you might be able to justify doing more work than usual for a short story.

Finally, it's worth keeping the following in mind: Malcolm Gladwell has been criticized for choosing examples that back up his theories, and for presenting a somewhat oversimplified treatment of the topic. (Having read The Tipping Point and Blink, this rings true for me. Even the Wikipedia article on him touches on some of this.) However, he is undeniably a talented writer who presents thoughtful ideas to the reader. And his books are very well-researched and filled with fascinating details and settings. If I wanted an in-depth knowledge of what a "tipping point" is, I'd read well beyond Gladwell's book. On the other hand, it's an easy-to-read and fun book that you could probably read in an afternoon. Why not read it anyway and see if you want to know more?

  • Do you think for a story that focuses heavily on the 10 steps, and the processes for these steps to happen, it is critical to understand the theory of tipping points? Jan 20, 2013 at 18:27
  • Also, I kind of was wondering due to the fact of uncertainty of whether the book will really help me with understanding the 10 steps of creating a police state from a democracy or other govt forms. Jan 20, 2013 at 18:33

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