How do you research?

05 Sep

Every book requires at least some research. Unless you are a CPA who likes to collect stamps and ride motorcycles and your book is about a biker CPA who just happens to collect stamps in her spare time, your book will require research.

Where to begin?

Well, it depends.

Is the information you are lacking more general – maybe it’s the location of your story? Are you writing a story that takes place in a small town, yet you have always lived in a large city? Depending upon your budget and resources, a long weekend trip to a small town nearby might just get you started. If cash is tight, head to the library and ask the librarian to help you pick out a few great novels that take place in small towns. Travel shows can shed a great deal of knowledge. As can travel magazines and travel books. Every town has a map of it somewhere.

Or are you wanting to use a more significant detail in your writing, but it is outside of your knowledge? Say your heroine is a sharp shooting ex-marine, if you have never discharged a weapon before, I’d highly recommend several visits to a gun range. When it comes to certain details that are inherent to your story, a good writer needs to be able to present the information in a manner that is utterly believable to their audience. Hands on experience can add that authenticity. Take a photography class to get into the head of your photojournalist. If your hero adopts a dog and you are a cat person, borrow a friend’s pooch for a couple days.

It’s the details that count. They can make or break a story. And when it comes to your baby, you want it to shine.

How do you research?


Posted by on September 5, 2012 in research, writing, writing craft


Tags: , ,

7 responses to “How do you research?

  1. Clarissa Southwick

    September 5, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Great question, Meredith. I mostly write historicals, so I look for books with lots of artwork from the period. The children’s section of the library is an excellent resource because children’s books tend to have more pictures and “how to” information. (How to make a catapault, how to make butter, etc.) I also read a lot of biographies, autobiographies, and letters from the period to get a sense of how people truly lived.

  2. ramblingsfromtheleft

    September 5, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Meredith, how timely is ?? I have a mystery trilogy set in the 60’s that features a photojournalist who has a bent towards photo art. As luck would have it, a member of my local writer’s group and good friend spent twenty-five years married to a pro and knows everything about what I am writing about. Black and white? Develop with chemicals in a darkroom? My brother has a darkroom in his house, had one in our tiny apartment, built one in the high school where he taught math. My daughter is a photographer … my grandson is a photographer. It surely is more who you know 🙂

    For other research, I rely on Google or Google Live, where you can actually, literally, walk down the street and find the exact house you want. Technology is the bomb !!

  3. Liz Fredericks

    September 5, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    I’ve been collecting calendars – scenic, people, art etc and then cut them apart for the photos. They’re sorted and whenever a need something – e.g. cafe, diner, mountain – I go to the stacks. It’s worked pretty well, but am also really glad to pick up these other tips. Thanks!

  4. Janis McCurry

    September 5, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    I research as I need for the scene. For instance, if I’m plugging away and my character takes me to Kathryn Albertson Park, then I rely on Google for pictures, paths, wildlife, etc. I don’t really gather everything before I need it, even if I know it’s coming from my plot points. Can’t try to keep too much ahead of time in my brain.

  5. maryvine

    September 5, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    My current wip has a small town mayor as the herioine. I chose this career because I know a small town mayor, simple as that. I also know a councilman in another small town. That’s my research.

  6. Lynn Mapp

    September 5, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Thank goodness for the internet. It’s been an excellent resource.

  7. Peggy Staggs

    September 7, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    I take the all I can get approach. I gather books, go to the place, and take a turn around the internet. I have a terrible memory, so I make a notebook for each book and keep all the information in there.


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