Researching: Two Questions (and then some more) for TWOFER TUESDAY

So....after reading an author interview on  Marieke's Musings (on world building), I started thinking. (Well, I'd thought about it before, but only started thinking about blogging about my thinking after reading the interview.) The author, Leah Cypress, said she took a research trip to England to tour castles and jot down descriptions (for her novel Mistwood). I wondered 1) what she wrote down...and 2) what her notebook looked like.


But seriously.
What DO you do to research for your projects?
                        What have you done in the past?
                                                What are your plans for researching further?

Do you sit in crowded restaurants, parks, stores, roller rinks, gyms, bars, etc. and jot down gestures and facial expressions, to find that perfect quirk for your character?

Do you travel to exotic locales?
1)What does your "notebook" look like?
2)What do you write down?
                Will you share an EXCERPT with me?
                                                              Share your notes? 

Do you jot down descriptions? conversations? movements of those around you? research years and historical events? names for characters or settings? problems and/or conversations you overhear in a crowd?

Please, please tell me.
         Where do you go?
                      How does it help?
Do you have helpful tips for the rest of us?

Thanks. So. Much.

oh.  and here is a helpful post if you need some ideas of what to watch for in a crowd.
it's on Books, Boys, Buzz  Writing Tips:  Use of Body Language

AND on a completely different note...OUR FIRST OFFICIAL WEEKLY WORD WATCHER WRITE IN IS COMING UP!  be prepared to post your 21k competition project name and official # of starting words THIS WEDNESDAY! we start writing (and countin) THURSDAY!!!  are you in?


  1. I only keep a general writing journal now because I have to for my creative writing class. I'm going to continue after the classes end! It's amazing how many ideas I've had since I started carrying that book around. I can go walking and notice something odd, which I turn into a story idea in my head and write down.

    I'm supposed to be listening to people talk, watch people, etc. but since I live in Iceland and write in English, that doesn't help me much with lingo ;) Watching people hasn't become a habit either yet, but I'm working on it.

    As for what I write (apart from seeing odd things) is the "what ifs" (which is what my creative writing teacher calls it). What if that woman talking to the policeman had just driven away from a crime scene and was stopped for speeding? Why was she at the crime scene? Did she commit the murder? How did she do it? Who did she kill? Her best friend? Is she psychotic and insanely jealous of her successful friend? Was she upset that her friend received some award that the killer had been working towards for years? What were they separately working on? Did the victim manage to publish a book? Did she steal ideas from the killer to write the book? How is the killer feeling standing there talking to the police? Is she sure that the police can tell what she's done? Is she trying to act normal, and thus acting abnormal?

    To share something? How about "human behaviour?"

    I bought a big bag of green grapes and my cousin came to visit. She asked me if she could have some grapes. I said yes, and she commented on how huge they were (and they were). I noticed that she plucked out all the huge ones and ate them.
    I didn't mind one bit, but it got me thinking about human behaviour. We always take the best bites, don't we? We usually don't stop to think "hang on, I should save the biggest, juiciest bites for others." I only do it when I'm eating with my kids, or when I have guests over. I don't mind taking the best bits from my husband, which is mean of me, I know, but it's true. I take what I like the best and eat it.

    I know this isn't material for a novel, but it might come in handy one day to describe a character.

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  4. Oh! Since I'm on a commentathon, I forgot to mention that I freewrite in it a lot. I've never found a better way to brainstorm. I just sit and write what's wrong with my WIP and as I write the solutions just come to me.

    I have different journals for different assignments, but general bits and pieces go into the main one.

  5. The second book that I am currently working on is partially set in Poissey, France. It's a small city an hour west of Paris. I choose it because of its history, and it's uniqueness.

    I had been to France many times, so I felt comfortable having my protagonist come from there. I have never been to Poissey, but I did most of my research on the internet. It's a wonderful source for information. You can find anything on any subject on the internet. In my first novel I found all my research on ballet there. So to me the internet is one of the best sources for writers.

    Of course, having the opportunity to visit a location and actually "absorb" what's around you would be wonderful, but nowadays it is expensive to travel and most people just don't have the time.

    I also find that if you like people writing about them is easy. Put yourself in situations that you are around people either front and center or as a voyeur.

    I am relatively new to writing, but I found that meeting other writers have been an enormous help in my writing. It is a wonderful community of people who are creative, caring, interesting, wacky, opinionated, and down right fascinating. A writer can really grow from his/her peers.

    Another inspiration for all of us is just plain LIVING, life is our greatest inspiration. Nature and all it's beauty offers a magnitude of ideas. Watch how the light dapples on a tree creating hundreds of shadows dancing on the leaves. Birds are delightful creatures to study. Look and squirrels and their playful banter with one another. I live in a large city, and still nature is all around me. Nature is an incredible inspiration.

    Art and music is also helpful turn to other creative mediums. Become that renaissance man or woman. Go to the symphony or an art museum.

    And lastly spend some time in your local Barnes and Noble or Borders. Spend time next to the books we all love. Look at covers, flip through the pages of a book that interest you, pass by a children's book reading and watch the faces of the kids light up as they're being read a story...

    These are some of my inspirations ... I hope they are helpful. This world is an amazing place, all we have to do is open our eyes to it.

  6. Most of the research I've done has been done on the internet and has just been trying to find out more about creatures or concepts.

    I haven't had to research settings because I've lived in all the places I've choosen.

    I carry a notebook around with me all the time, but it's just to take notes if I happen to think of something.

    I do people watch, but I don't sit and write down what I see. With the exception of two, all of my characters just come from how I picture them. The one exception was a character based on Allison Iraheta from American Idol. I wanted the character to have that look and attitude, so I watched reruns of the show. The other exception was a character based off one of my students. And, I taught him three times a week, so I didn't have to take notes. I did take a picture of him and draw a portrait -- making him into something I created helped to get the character down in my head. That actually reminds me though ... I sketch a lot in my notebook.

  7. Thanks everyone, these are some truly fabulous answers. I write contemporary, so my settings don't require research aside from maybe google mapping a town I'm basing mine on (where's the downtown, where's the lake, etc.).

    But my completed novel included a character who is a nanotechnologist and she gives a speech during an awards dinner. My book isn't sci fi (although does have a light sci fi explanation for a cure for an unnamed disease), so I needed to come up with some true information about the medical implications of nanotech. I did internet research, found out that CalTech is the #1 source of that info., emailed a professor there, and he provided me with several links to the information I needed. Presto! I'm a little bit smarter (and wrote a speech).


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