Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guest Bloggers A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder - Researching Beyond the Internet

Researching a story idea is a little like writing a paper for school – you figure out what you want to know, then how to find it. Where it differs is in the methods for finding it. There’s always the internet, of course. For example, when Rachel and I were working on a new story and needed a boat for our main character, we used the Sea Ray website based on boats I saw at the marina. 

On the other hand, there’s no substitute for in-person research. Being on a boat is a lot different from looking at one online – you miss the feel of the swells under the boat, the rocking of the boat that makes it hard to walk, the sounds and smells of the water. All of these things can add authenticity to your story.

When researching one story, we went to Madison, Wisconsin. We had put our main character in a Chicago-style “three-flat,” or brownstown with three storeys, each an apartment. We went all over Madison, to different neighborhoods; we talked to three realtors, a cafĂ© barista, and several people on the street. It turns out there are no Chicago-style three-flats in Madison. It’s not an architectural style they use. We wouldn’t have found that out without going there, because we made the assumption that Chicago-style would be ubiquitous in the Midwest.

You can also use your job in your stories. If you work in an office, then your characters who are office workers will have more authenticity to them. If you’ve ever worked in food service, or as an auto mechanic, flight attendant, police officer, or dog trainer, at some point you can give any of these occupations to your characters and know they will read true.

Another way of getting information is to ask questions of those doing what you want your characters to do. If you identify yourself as an author, folks are willing to talk to you about all sorts of things. I’ve asked a police officer about gun regulations, talked to waiters about restaurants, musicians about venues in town, all sorts of things. When you get people talking about their lives and passions, you learn all sorts of things. 

A. Catherine Noon is an author and textile artist based in Chicago, Illinois. Rachel Wilder is an author and image consultant in Las Vegas, Nevada. Together, they love to write stories and create worlds for readers to explore and enjoy. To learn more about them, please visit their website.

9 comments:

A. Catherine Noon said...

A huge thank you to the Naughty Nine Novelists for hosting us today. Thanks, ladies!

Erin Nicholas said...

Welcome! And I love researching new places! Actually going there sounds like the perfect idea... I need to set a book in Tuscany...
Erin

Kelly Jamieson said...

Welcome to the Naughty Nine! I love research, to the point where I can get carried away. You're right, in person is best but I gotta love the Internet!!

Meg Benjamin said...

I use research as an excuse--I've gotten the hubs to take me to a lot of restaurants so that I can use them for settings!

Juniper Bell said...

Welcome to the NNN, A. Catherine! I absolutely love research because it adds so much to a story. Sometimes the trick is not to over-research, though, and turn your story into a dissertation! Great post!

A. Catherine Noon said...

Hi, Erin! I love your idea of setting a book in Tuscany. Brilliant!

I agree with you, I love researching new places as well. Google Earth and Google Mars are big helps in that process too, since they allow all sorts of searches and images and such. Great fun!

A. Catherine Noon said...

Hi, Kelly! I agree, it's easy to get carried away with research. I think it's the nature of writers to be curious. I love to use a digital timer to keep myself on track - 30 minutes of writing, and 30 minutes of searching. Work out well.

A. Catherine Noon said...

Hi, Meg! Hey, I hadn't thought of that. Has he figured it out yet? Hmm. Maybe I'll have to try that with my hub. :)

A. Catherine Noon said...

Good point, Juniper. No one likes to read a dissertation! ~smile~