i didn’t really enjoy school when i was younger. i considered going back for a graduate degree, but then i remembered how horrible studying was, how tedious lectures could be, and how i detested late night research. i mean, honestly, was i really going to need all of that when i was planning to become a famous writer?
um…yes. actually, i did.
believe it or not, unlike algebra and calculus, research is very important for life on the creative side. have you ever read a book and thought…what? that didn’t make sense! could have been glaring mistakes about a location or career or a legal process, but as a reader you find it distracting and you start to get aggravated with book and author. it’s the same with grammar and punctuation, yes? so, my point is, if you want to be taken seriously, than you have to take the story seriously yourself. that means researching your topics to make sure you don’t sound like an idiot.
not all research is bad. i found that i actually enjoy parts of it…such as character research. pinterest has become my friend! for part of my day, i get type a search in to pull up photos of men fitting the idea of a character i’m trying to create. oh, yes…that is my favorite part of the day. you can visit my pinterest boards if you want to take a look, too. 😉
also, have you been to all of the places you’re using in your book? have you been to the places your characters have been? unlikely. if you can, take a trip there. one of my favorite authors often posts about her research trips to new orleans, savanah, and D.C. it’s a wonderful idea to immerse yourself in the culture and soak up the inspiration. as a reader, i love seeing it through their eyes. it’s a real talent to make a place come alive in a real way for your reader. so what do you do when you have a character from, say…england? because i do. here is what i’ve done:
i used my character’s profile to decide where in england he should have come from. he likes to surf, so it had to be somewhere that would allow that sort of pastime. so i looked to wikipedia for popular surfing places there. then i read what i could about the culture in that area, watched videos from there to get a handle on the accent and verbage. I looked up pictures so i can adequately describe certain places that my character can talk about.
now, i have only held one post college job, and that was for a construction management firm where i worked in contract management. so far, none of my characters have followed in my foot steps (can’t say that i blame them). so my knowledge of other careers is rather superficial. so what do i do when it comes to writing a character who is an analyst, like rowan? i googled it. i wikipedia’d it. whatever it takes. if i could have found an analyst in real life willing to be interviewed, i would have taken advantage of that as well. but, alas, my circles didn’t include that resource. so i did what i could with what i had and then did my best to leave out things that i didn’t know about.
then i had my critique partners and some beta readers comb through the manuscript looking for errors that would distract from the story. they found them. i fixed them. and we did it all over again.
i’m not going to lie. i still don’t enjoy research (except for the pinterest bit i mentioned). but, like i tell my kids, you don’t have to like it. you just have to do it.