Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Doing research

artwork by Kaitlyn McCane

So, I've been trying to catch up on my writing. I've picked up a client for work so between kids and work, writing time is limited. Yesterday, I did manage to write some and it felt great. The other thing I love to do is research. And, yes, I'm sure I've talked about this before.

I'm not talking Google research, I'm talking real life experience. I do use Google, and to be honest, if it's not holding my interest, my mind wanders. I love experiencing research, especially for setting. Now, I hear ya, you can't go everywhere, and let's face it, I really don't know what heaven is like or what life felt like in the 16th century (I've had no near death experiences and don't plan on having any, and I don't have a time machine), but there are certain stories where I can go to the setting, to the place where it happens and live the experience.

On Friday, I went to the beach with my family. I love the beach. I don't know why. Something about the ocean, the sand, and the air. Plus, it holds a lot of great memories. One of my stories takes place there. I have to say soaking in the whole feeling/atmosphere makes me want to write the story even more. It makes me feel like I have some sort of inside info.

This is nothing new to the world of writing. Many authors have done "research" by experiencing it, and to me, if you can, I think it can give your story an authentic feel. You know this, right?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say, if you can, live your research even it's going to a museum to check out old furniture--live it. For me, it's usually the setting. I go to that spot, close my eyes, and listen. I breathe in, and then I open my eyes and write everything I feel, smell, and even taste if I'm eating something. What I found was--the air had a mixture of salt air and caramel corn, the sand is soft, but watch out for broken shells, the ocean's waves create a rhythmic pound as they hit the sand, the strumming of the drums on the carousel mixes with childrens' laughter. I could go on, and into more detail, but I want you to try it. You don't have to go far. Head out to your back yard and tap into your senses, then write them down. It's amazing what you may find.

What's your method of research?

Don't forget, on Friday, Elana Johnson, here. She will be talking about Plotting and Pacing in YA.

Have a great day!


  1. I do this too. It's a great exercise for adding sensory description in your stories. :)

  2. When writing historical, I rely a lot on old photographs -- pictures of the actual place or a similar place.

    However, since my crazy muse wants to end my current WIP with a climax at the pyramids of Teotihuacan and pictures can't do it justice, my husband and I are seriously talking about taking a 4 day trip to Mexico City. Is he great, or what?? It's still in the "could we really do this?" stage -- but I'm hopeful!

  3. GOOGLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's pretty much it. ;-) Although, ONE day I would love to go to places I have written about. I feel like I've already been there.


  4. I couldn't agree more. The best written settings have lots of sensory details that you can't get from google--especially the sounds and smells!

  5. I love doing research by experience! I wanted to write a road-trip novel, so I took a road trip last summer, and it was one of my fave vacations ever (and cheap!).

  6. Does experiencing science fiction movies count?

  7. Whenever I can research first hand I do it but that's not always possible! I loved soaking in Boston and the Gardner Museum for a book I hope to rewrite this fall. Loved it!