Research – Do You Do It?

Day 18 – “R” Research

Another vital part of the writing process, researching is something I absolutely love to do. The type of research and the intensity of it most certainly depends on the piece I’m writing. The contemporary novel I’m working on requires far less research, mainly on how to renovate and restore a cabin (a project my main character is working on).

One of the many piles of notes and books I've been working through in researching  for the historic component of my novel. I love having clippings of the setting that inspires the piece, and have numerous photos and images around my desk as well.
One of the many piles of notes and books I’ve been working through in researching for the historic storyline of one of my novels. 

The historic novel I’ve been plugging away at is my needy child. Especially since this storyline is historic fiction, I’m super anal about having all of my facts straight. Set in Louisiana at the turn of the century, I’ve been researching plantation homes and how they ran post-Civil War, the history of New Orleans, Creole-style architecture (particularly bayou cottages), the history of the reconstruction period, etc.

My desk is littered with books, notebooks, and clippings that relate to my book. I have a number of photos I’ve printed out and tacked to my desk or the walls surrounding my working space, to inspire me and pull me into that setting, that house, and to set the mood accordingly to write that particular scene.

I’ve also been recently developing a character with borderline personality disorder. She is loosely based off of two former acquaintances (horrible I know, but we all do it…) whose personalities and behaviors were eerily similar, making it easy to combine and create one fantastically messed up character. In order to get the details right with this individual, I’ve been referencing back to my old psychology text books (I was a psych minor) and have been rereading books on BPD, including memoirs, fiction, and non-fiction.

Research is huge for me. It is a crucial component that often ties directly into my outlining process. One of these days I’ll travel back to New Orleans to do some on-site investigation for my book, something is a must to fine-tune the descriptive details to ensure that my novel feels authentic. Having lived in the south for a few years, and having visited New Orleans an number of times, I feel that I have a good grasp on this, but definitely want to visit again strictly for research purposes to tie up the loose ends.

What is your research process? Do you even research?

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18 thoughts on “Research – Do You Do It?

  1. My trilogy is set in the 9th century, so I’ve had to do masses of research about Anglo Saxons and Vikings and, of course, King Alfred himself. I even dargged the family around Denmark for several weeks one summer, so that I knew what I was talking about with terrain and so on, as well as visiting museums and historic sites. I love research and have rein myself in sometimes. i can well understand your need to keep visiting New Orleans.

    1. How exciting!!! I’m hoping to make a “family trip” out of it, as much as I’d like to to be strictly for research purposes, I’ll probably have to break it up a tad 🙂

  2. Research is critical (imo) unless you’re writing about something or somewhere that you either know implicitly or you live amongst and can see it daily.
    I’ve got four novels on the go which may or may not one day see the light of day, three of them being based outside of where I live. I have pages and pages of notes and pictures from when I was in the places that I draw on when writing. It wouldn’t be credible otherwise as tar as i’m concerned.

    1. I agree with you completely. I do love including personal experiences and observations in my writing, but I find that a happy balance between meshing those scenes with those that are thoroughly researched for credibility is the perfect balance 🙂

  3. My research process constantly evolves. I use books, internet searches and factoids learned from local historians. The historical I just finished writing is set in 1779. I have a spiral notebook that I’ve divided into sections. Characters, local history, military history, clothing and household, and maps. LOTS of maps. I’ve been to the city where the story was set and I was able to find a map done in 1777 and overlaid it onto a modern map. Made visualizing the city a lot easier. Also, Google Earth and the Library of Congress are invaluable resources. Also, check the local historical societies. I’ve also learned of new websites for ancestry/historical searches by watching “Who Do You Think You Are”. Good luck!

  4. I like to begin a short story or novel from a basic idea without researching it in depth, allowing the characters to lead the plot. Then, if one of the characters insists on going down an unexpected path about which I know very little, I stop to do some research.
    A plus side of research is that sometimes a new and unexpected plot strand, chapter, or scene sprouts out of it. In my last novel, I ended up building a whole chapter around the eco-system of an oak tree!

    1. I like that process! I’m currently playing around with a character that randomly struck a chord with me and I was motivated to write about. I’ve been writing scenes and working with her development, allowing her and her story to “lead the plot” as you said, which is completely foreign to me. I always plot first and then develop characters to fit the plot. Not sure where this character is going, where she will end up, if she will make her way into one of my novels or create a new one all together. It is a fun and new experience for sure!! 🙂

      1. Yes, I first read it years ago, but am presently re-reading it. Interestingly, I can identify much more with what he’s saying now than then. In some ways, it’s quite a reassuring experience, as I realise that I’ve learned a lot and am doing quite a lot that’s right. But the depressing part is that the publishing world has changed and it’s a lot harder to make it traditionally. I expect he covers this in his revised edition, as some of the stuff is quite out of date in the one I have.

  5. When writing historical fiction or including a mental health or other illness, research is hugely important. I write journalistic pieces for my campus magazine, and those require research, but my personal writing is mostly memoir or vignettes, so not a lot of research goes into those.

  6. Most of my writing doesn’t need research, which is fortunate, as it’s not my favourite thing. I can imagine it could be difficult to tear yourself away from the research if it’s something you love and it must be difficult to balance using the information and not using too much of it in the writing 🙂

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