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30.8.08

RESEARCH

Research is a necessary part of the creative process that can be tedious, time consuming…or a whole lot of fun. I personally love researching a story – the characters, the setting, and even the occasional occupation of one of my characters if it is a focal part of the story.

I admit it! I am totally anal about having my research or at least most of it completed before I even sit down to write Chapter One, Page One. I have a book set-up folder with written details, photos and character profiles of my main characters. Setting photos and information. If a home or building features prominently, I have exterior and interior photos.

I tend to be very visual when I write and if I’m having a problem with a scene, going through my set-up folder and looking at photos is the best way to get my focus into the story, into the setting, the scene, and into the heads of my characters. As such, I’m going to share my new favorite writing tool – Flicker Photo Sharing! I’m addicted. You can find photos of almost anything on this site; animals in Africa, Victorian homes, a dark and stormy night, man in the fog, trees in the fall. You name it. Type in tag words and hit search and chances are you’ll find more than you imagined.

My first book, THE BOND UNBROKEN, written under my maiden name, Diana Grayson, is a time travel set in the Wild West, Abilene, Kansas, in the year 1871. Believe it or not, I began writing this book before I owned a computer. You don’t want to know the number of books I lugged home from the Library while researching this book. That part wasn’t so much fun. THANK GOD FOR THE INTERNET!!!! However, no matter how many books or photos you might have, nothing beats the excitement of hands-on research, of being there, of seeing where it all happened, exploring the countryside, etc.

It’s amazing how helpful people will be if they know you are an author working on a book. I phoned the local library and told them I was planning to visit the area to do some research. The wonderful lady I spoke with put me in touch with the head of the local historical society who I phoned when I arrived in Kansas. He gave me a personal tour of the city, highlighting the original area, and allowed me to go through their historical archives and to copy anything that would be helpful. I was actually able to hold an original Colt 45 revolver. Imagine my surprise. Those things are not only much larger than I expected, they’re heavy. It certainly put my perception of the quick-draw shoot-outs into perspective.

There is a mock old gun-town in Abilene where they stage shoot-outs for tourists. Are you ready for this? The person playing the sheriff let me wrap his gun belt and holster around me and stand in the middle of Texas Street as if I was about to face down some ornery outlaw who was gunning for me. If I had lived back then, I wouldn’t have lived long. The damn gun belt would have wrapped around me twice, and the only chance I would have had at living is if my opponent had laughed himself to death while I tried to tug the heavy Colt 45 from the holster. My friend who went on the trip with me nearly did as she stood on the sidelines watching me make a fool of myself.

Fun and exciting hands-on research doesn’t have to be as extensive as a trip several states away to research a location. I believe I mentioned in my Seduction Of The Senses series that I went to a lake and spent a night in a cabin so I could sit outside on the deck to listen to the night sounds for my story INDEPENDENCE DAY. I took a walk in the rain to get the feel and the sound of the rain on an umbrella for I’LL BE SEEING YOU and went to the river after heavy rain to get the smells. I went out one foggy night and took a drive in the country. I even went outside for a walk during a heavy snow, dressed as my heroine in DETOUR was dressed, to see what it felt like. I went to the county fair and rode a Ferris Wheel, something I hadn’t done in years. For SECOND CHANCES, I went out to a bar alone, something I do not do, just to get the experience my heroine would have. And, I shot a gun, something I’ve never done before, to get the feel and the kick of the weapon as if fired. How many of you have written about a character shooting a gun but have never done so yourself?

Those are just a few an examples of the kind of hands-on research that I love, the part that fires my imagination, a fix that will keep me going for weeks after I get back to the computer.

Now, being single, all I need is someone to help me with the hands-on research for the love scenes. I’ve said it before and will say it again - as a romance writer, those scenes are a necessary part of the job. It makes perfect sense to me that I should be able to hire a male research assistant and claim his salary as a write-off on my income taxes. Makes perfect sense to me.

So authors, how about sharing some of the things you’ve done for the sake of researching a book? Anything interesting, fun, maybe a bit scary, or something not particularly wise as I have been known to do?

I’m on vacation from my day job, all next week. It’s the first full week I’ve taken for myself in several years. And another week scheduled for the second week in October. My plan is to devote both weeks to my new novel, HELL ON WHEELS, that has been slow going due to work and some family health issues. Anyone want to guess what kind of hands-on research I’m planning while I’m off?
I'll be checking email when ever possible and will respond as soon as I am able to do so. Have a great week everyone.

Kay



4 comments:

Lisabet Sarai said...

I'm in awe of your approach to research - actual experience! I don't think I've ever held a gun, let alone shot one.

I tend to write about places that I've already been, places that made a big impression on me. And I probably rely on my imagination far too much (as opposed to actually looking something up, I'll make a guess!) Fortunately I do have a vivid imagination!

Paul McDermott said...

You need to give yourself an excuse for a looooooong trip next time you do some research! For instance, if you want to follow my example, why not set your next book in rural Ireland, and treat yourself to 14 days plodding around behind a horse on a genuine gypsy-style caravan? Believe me, it was the most restful 14 days of my life!!! LOL
Paul

Kay Wilde said...

Paul,

That sounds wonderful. Something I would love to do. Maybe a book a hero and heroine ship wrecked on a deserted island? I could handle a couple of weeks on an island.

Unfortunately, with a full time day job and family, research in exotic locations are out of the question. At this point I have to content myself with short adventures and living the exiting life through my characters.

Kay

Molly Daniels said...

Hi Kay:) I tend to use the home state for many of my settings, and when I do venture beyond the borders, I either use my imagination or stick to the states/places I've been.

And my love scenes? I've read so many steamy e-books the past year, I'm gleaning ideas from them. But no plagerism:)