Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back on the Blog Chain: Reseaching Beyond the Internet

Today's topic was suggested by Michelle, who wants us to share our research secrets:

There are so many things we have to include in our storyworlds...characters, world details, settings, etc. No matter what genre you write, your stories are full of tiny details that help create your storyworld. I know that for me, at least, finding or creating all these details can sometimes be a bit tough.

Where do you go for help? And what types of things are you more likely to research/search for as opposed to making up on your own? Do you have any favorite resource sites? Share links if you have them!!

I come between Abby and Kate this round.

The Internet is a wonderful source of information for writers. If I want to look up obscure bits of information such as what songs and movies were current November 1980 (some details I needed for Twinned Universes), all I have to do is pick the right keywords, feed them into Google, and browse the resulting links. And yes, if I want basic information about a topic, I'm not ashamed to start by looking at Wikipedia, though it's not my only source. However, there are some things you can't research online, such as the way a setting smells or feels. Also, sometimes, you need a in-depth source, not just a casually written one-page summary. So, although I use the Internet for research, it's not my only source.

Earlier this year, I got an idea for a story which will be set in a turn-of-the-20th-century Midwestern small town. Part of the reason for choosing this setting is because I spent my teenage years in Delavan, Wisconsin. (This town won't be identical to Delavan, but I plan to use it as inspiration.) I can draw on my memories for some of the sensory details needed to make this town come to life. To learn more about the era, I'm reading some books with photographs from that time and details about everyday life; a couple of them are listed on my Books I've Read in 2011 page.

The details that I research instead of making up depend on the story I'm writing. If a story is set in our world (or something very close to it), then I feel I need to match the details more than if I'm creating my own world. The important thing is that the details feel right to the reader as she's experiencing my story.

Note: The Blog Chain will be taking a brief vacation for the month of July and possibly August.


Christine Fonseca said...

I feel the same way!

Abby Annis said...

I agree, the details make all the difference. Great post!

And wanted to let you know my post is finally up. :)

Sarah Allen said...

So true, details are what truly bring the reader in. And I think you're right too, that facts and information can be found wonderfully readily online, but to really get the feel behind something, it takes more than that.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oh, I love Wikipedia for big picture research. I know it is not always the most reliable, but for quick info it cannot be beat.

Eric said...

I know what you mean when you say it matters what world we're writing about. I agonize over stories that involve the world as we know it because I'd hate to get anything wrong. Great answer.

Anonymous said...

Good points! I totally agree, especially about not being able to research how something smells and feels.

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