Even if you don't write historicals, a fair amount of research goes into writing. As an author, I want to make sure my details are accurate for my readers. Everything from the timing of the seasons to time changes to appropriate clothing to regional dialects to the right education for a particular career to roads traveled to...well you get the idea...All of those little details come together to give your readers a complete story. It makes our characters and our settings three-dimensional and real.
So how do I do that research?
I tend to write what I know, even going so far as to set my books in places I've actually been so I get all of the nuances correct. I take lots and lots of pictures and can refer back to them at a later time when I need to remember a specific piece of information for the setting. They also come in handy later for blog tours and other promotion.
But sometimes there are things I need to look up.
Technology literally puts a world of information at our fingertips, and that can sometimes be over-whelming. If I'm looking up something for a quick reference (When does Fall usually start in Texas? What kind of degree do you need to be a Certified Accessibility Consultant? What's the career path for a librarian? What's the sentence for a charge of assault and battery in the Carolinas? etc.) I hop right on the Internet and make use of Yahoo! Search or Google.
But when I want to dig a little deeper, I do things the old-fashioned way. I walk down to the library. And I head right for the children's section. Youth non-fiction books are an author's best friend for research. They are simply written, easy to understand, and often have lots of pictures. They cover the basics without getting bogged down in lots of vocabulary that most of the time is going to be over-my-head anyway. In this way, my Secret Service hero became a competent ski instructor for the heroine.
TV and documentaries are also helpful. I spent hours and hours watching the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) as research for my bull rider hero. Watching them fasten their ropes and get settled on the back of a massive bull allowed me to describe it in the story when my hero did the same. The PBR also has a great web-site with a section of rodeo vocabulary, which I printed out and kept handy, as I referred to it often.
Just about anything can be used for research: travel magazines and brochures, phone books, songs, and stories people tell.
Once a writer adds his or her imagination, there's no telling where they'll take us.
Do you have any favorite research methods? What works best for you?
Until next time,