Monday, March 21, 2011
Oh, the fun of research!
Courtney asked a couple of great questions after my post last week. Betsy added her thoughts and I figured I'd add mine here! :)
How much is too much research?
You might be asking this question to the wrong group of Scribble Chicks. :) The majority of us write contemporary fiction, which is probably the least research-laden writing out there. Honestly? I hate research. I can EASILY get very bogged down with mindless details and lose any sense of fun I had in the writing process.
So how do you make sure that facts fit and the story rings true if you hate to research?
Betsy mentioned this, but the easiest, fool-proof way to do it is to write a contemporary story in a fictional town in whatever country you live in. It's modern day so you don't have to research fashion, currency, pop culture, or any number of details you'd have to if it were set in the past. It's a fictional town so you get to make up street names, businesses and politicians. And you are the sole creator of this town, so if you want there to be a Starbucks on every corner, then PLEASE put a Starbucks on every corner.
Another idea is to set your story in a real town, but one that you are very familiar with. Do you live in Dallas? Write a story that is set in Dallas. Your grandma lives in Portland and you spent every summer there? Plop those characters into Portland. Writing like this gives you an added bonus too - you've got an automatic in with the people who live there. People LOVE to read local authors whose story is set in their town!
How about research that isn't location-driven? Let's say you want to write a story about a master surgeon and you've never even seen a scalpel, much less a surgeon?
Then you might have your research cut out for you. What I would recommend is to follow the old saying and write what you know. You're a kindergarten teacher? Write about a kindergarten teacher. Your sister is playing soccer on the college level? Write about a soccer player. Think through the people God has placed in your life and go from there. My latest books, the Maya Davis series, were all written about a barista and I followed a friend of mine who was working at the Borders coffeeshop around for a day, scribbling MILLIONS of notes, just to give the story more accuracy.
But, let's say that you DO want to write about a surgeon and it's a story that you just can't give up. Start asking around to see if any of your friends or family members know any surgeons, or anyone in the medical industry. See if you can meet with one. Most people are VERY willing to talk about their lives - especially if they know you'll be potentially thanking them in print someday!
And as far as the "little" research things - for example, your character is watching her sodium levels and needs to know how much is in a Saltine cracker - I recommend researching as you go. Keep Wikipedia and Google on your favorites list online. That way, it's just a quick couple of clicks, you've got the info and you're ready to go!