Purple Prose + Writing

Gotta Love That Research

I love research. I have a Master’s of Science in exercise biological sciences ’cause I love it so much. But doing research for my novels is by far my favorite type so far. There’s a whole world out there begging for you to dive in and explore it.

For my current project, Lost in a Heartbeat (YA contemporary), I investigated the world of dream analysis and animal symbolism. I also poured through books on jewellery design (not that I’m planning to take up the hobby). Oh, and then there was the research on sprained wrists, drowning, and competitive swimming. And don’t forget those YA books I’ve read with similar themes to what I’m writing.

And yes, I loved every minute of it.

The downside? The librarian now thinks I’ve been raped, my husband abuses me, my teenage daughter is struggling with depression, and one of my children has leukemia. Betcha she’s missed all the books I’ve borrowed on writing fiction. I’m thinking of having a T-shirt made saying, “Research is the Fiction Writer’s Best Friend.” What do you think?

But say you’ve come up with a great idea for a story, what comes next? For me, I start off with the basic research. For Lost in a Heartbeat, a story about a teenage girl who has to find the courage to return to competitive swimming after she was raped, I began by searching for associations that deal with rape. RAINN.org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is a great resource for both the rape survivor and her loved ones. I also borrowed books on the topic from the library. Not all rape survivors deal with rape in exactly the same way, which was important to know when I worked on the characterization for my protagonist.

What’s next? For me, I prefer to outline my novels instead of writing as I go. Everyone, though, is different. As I started to plan the book, I came up with the idea of using dream analysis and animal symbolism to further the plot. Google is a great search engine for that. Just be careful of the information you decide to go with. Depending on what you’re writing about, you want to make sure the source is credible. Wikipedia is a great resource but it isn’t without errors. Maybe you know someone who’s an expert in the subject and you can interview them. If you have a medical or psychological question pertaining to your novel, you can contact H.L. Dyer (paediatrician) and Carolyn Kaufman (charter psychologist) at the Query Tracker Blog. They're a tremendous resource.

And for those of you interesting in writing fantasy and paranormal novels, do you really have to do research? Isn’t it all make believe, anyway? Maybe. But even Stephenie Meyer did extensive research on vampire myths when writing the Twilight Saga. And Melissa Marr is knowledgeable about fairy lore.

Want some great tips on researching for your current or next project? Be sure to check out this link and this link from the Query Tracker Blog.

Remember, even though you’re writing fiction—as in made up—the details are important, as are the credible facts. And you never know, your research may spark an idea for another book.

Have a great week!

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Gotta Love That Research + Writing