For writers: Is it important for you to research random details about your story? Like location-wise, or just some other thing that you're not familiar with, or do you just wing it?
It's pretty important to me, I guess. Even though most of what I write these days is crack, research helps in adding a bit of depth into the story. Like you said, most of what you researched would not even end up in the story itself. I'm a real google freak, so I would've researched anyway even though I wouldn't need it.
I haven't written anything much that required extensive geographical information, except the once I wrote about Yokosuka (which, btw, the search pattern was Rika's middle school location and birds in the area). I read enough to be able give you a detailed explanation on migratory patterns and scavenger behaviour in the Yokosuka suburbs, but I didn't use any of that at all. Just that there were birds in the area.
Technical information and terminology is more important to me than location, I suppose. I have to google each turn-of-phrase or fact to make sure it's accurate and not just something I came up with. I read up as much as I can and then only decide how much of what to make factual and what to fictionize. For example, the hospital hierarchy in On Call is based on the American medical org structure. Teaching hospitals do not have their residents stay on campus, but they used to. Most hospitals have definitely more than 5 interns per intake.
I suppose it's the prerogative of the writer to balance the fine line between fact and fiction for the ease of reading and writing. For me personally, I will research as much as I can first before deciding how much I want to deviate from fact. You would think that creating a whole new 'verse from scratch will be easy, since it's all fiction and your own fantasy, but the truth is the deviation will more often than not result in lengthier explanations and back stories.
Which is why slice of life fics are so much easier to write than the uber fics you churn out, Essy. And for that, I respect you greatly.
For readers: Does it matter to you whether some of the details are factually accurate?
It doesn't really, but if its glaringly inaccurate, there should be a good back story why. I notice most of the stories here are very character-centric, without much backdrop. That's pretty nice to read too, especially when all you want to know is what's happening to the characters and not the color of their kitchen tiles.
Cos as a detail-obsessive writer I wonder if people appreciate the fruits of my research or if they just don't care.
Maybe they don't realize? But what's important is that you can live with it yourself.
I have to admit that sometimes, I may not realize at all the labor that went into the tiniest portion of a fic, and perhaps just glanced over it for story progression and character interaction instead of background. But having said that, and having done my dues with obsessive chart-making and stacks of handwritten notes, I really don't care if people don't notice. The writing was done for me to enjoy myself and due diligence was observed to lovingly craft a universe that I can explore. A little like playing with dolls and make-believe.
----Wow, I can actually write something without having it fall into crack.