3 Signs Research is Your New Best Friend

Cara researching, writing advice 2 Comments

BH-ShadowedbyGraceSquares-3If you’ve been a writer long, you may have discovered something…something that is causing your rooms to feel smaller. Your checkbook to feel lighter. Your desk to feel like a leaning tower.

You’ve discovered that to write an exceptional book, you must conduct mounds of research. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has asked if I’m really writing or simply lost in Google world. Often it depends.

  1. You’re addicted to getting the details right. While I was writing Stars in the Night, I had to research multiple locations…places I couldn’t visit while writing. Because the Hollywood stars were on a train making stops across the United States on their war bond tour, I scrambled to find valid locations for their performances and hotels. It would have been very easy to keep looking and looking and looking. But I realized time was short, and I just needed one location in each city. Since the tour started in D.C., I decided to use a well-known location: Ford’s Theatre. The only problem was that my research showed that during WWII, Ford’s Theatre was used for storage. Instead, I had them stop at the National Theatre which just happened to have a gap in its schedule on the day I had them performing. My stars didn’t even have to perform on stage with a real act!
  2. The pile of research books surrounding your desk overflows from your bookshelves. You don’t have to have a history minor to be intrigued by history or another area. As writers we can be artists, soldiers, photographers, doctors, etc. Our characters have jobs we’ve never held. To accurately portray them, I have to read books, talk to people in the job, and anything else I can imagine to bring it to life. In Shadowed by Grace, Rachel Justice is an only child of a single mother who is dying. Desperate to save her mother, she talks her editor into sending her to Italy. During WWII. To photograph the war. There were so many details to research from the kind of camera she would have an how it worked to what her uniform was.
  3. You think about ways to get that tidbit you need even as your falling asleep. You call people and explain that yes, you really are an author and that’s why you need to know how the police on Mackinac Island would handle a murder investigation. It’s why you rejoice when they don’t throw you in jail for asking pointed questions about who would have jurisdiction and what would happen — something I really did while writing A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island.

And don’t forget you can read the first chapter of Shadowed by Grace and watch the videos on why I wrote about the Monuments Men here.

What research nuggets have you discovered? What’s the craziest piece of information you’ve researched?

Comments 2

  1. Great post, Cara! I saw a preview of the movie Monuments Men and told my kiddos that I have a friend who wrote a novel about this. They that this (you) was so cool!
    Craziest thing I’ve researched so far? Llamas. Because, when I was writing my debut novel, my husband and I drove past a backyard in Estes Park (where the novel is set) and there were llamas in it.
    And my husband said, “If you aren’t going to put aliens in this novel, could you put llamas in it?”
    And, silly me, I said yes.
    Lots of my readers loved the trio of llamas. Great comic relief.

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