Wicked Wednesday – Wicked Fun Research

It’s Wicked Wednesday again, and today we’re weighing in on a wicked fun type of research. Every now and then as we’re writing along, murdering people and getting our characters into all kinds of dangerous situations, we inevitably find ourselves describing a physical situation that is hard to imagine simply in our heads. So, Wickeds, when that happens, what do you do? Ask your spouse if you can push them (gently, of course) down the stairs? Enlist a friend to put you in a choke hold? Come on, ‘fess up! And what other kinds of fun research do you do for your stories?

Edith: All of the above. In addition, I visit chickens every chance I get and talk to people who keep them so I can get the details on farmer Cam’s rescue chickens correct.

I’ve just finished the first draft of an historical novel set in my town, with John Greenleaf BuggyWhittier as a secondary character, so I’m involved in research I can only confirm through old newspapers, property deeds, maps, and all manner of other sources. But material is everywhere. I went down to our local health center to have blood drawn, and sitting in the waiting room was a carriage from the period I’m writing about, the late 1800s. Of course I grabbed a pen and wrote a description of it. I’m a member of the Whittier Home Association and can wander through Whittier’s house, look at his desk, check out the accurately maintained herb garden, and best, talk to a dozen or two Whittier fans who know way more than I do (and one of whom will be reading a draft for me).

Liz: The good news is that I’m a klutz by nature. So when I needed to figure out how someone would land after a fall down the stairs, all I had to do was go back to the numerous times I’ve tumbled down on my own. Including one banner episode in my younger days where I not only fell down half the flight of stairs, but off the side with no banister in my parents’ basement and landed amidst my mother’s potato bin. Does that count?

Lobsterboat2Barb: Writing about coastal Maine, my research is often complicated by seasonality. I need to see blueberries picked, but it’s the dead of winter. I need to go to a clambake (yes my life is hard) but it hasn’t opened yet. For the next book in my Maine Clambake Mystery series, Musseled Out, I hitched a ride on a lobster boar with Captain Clive Farrin. You should totally do this if you are ever in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, by the way. It’s beautiful and informative and Captain Farrin and his sternman answered all my questions. Oh, how I suffer for my art.

ChairYSSherry: Oh, you poor thing, Barb! Since I’m writing a series with a garage sale theme I can indulge myself by considering going to them “work”. This week I’m visiting my mom in Florida. I headed out to run errands for her and after two right turns, there it was a yard sale sign beckoning to me with its siren song. I had to go. Sadly, for me (and happily for my husband who isn’t crazy about my habit) all of the things I liked were way too big for my suitcase. I had a lovely conversation with the man running the yard sale. His wife refinishes furniture or puts old things together in a new way — a skill I admire and lack!

clock_towers_of_waterbury_hJulie: I can get stuck in research. Right now, I am putting notes in my manuscript that say **find this out** so I don’t stop writing to find out something specific that turns into a three hour Google gorge. But two pieces of research are overarching for me right now. First, I am looking at and finding clock towers. And I am going to the Clock Museum this summer while I’m on vacation. Second, I need to figure out how to map a town. How long does it take Ruth to go to this house, or that store? What makes the journey’s different? And how does that impact the story? Again, right now I am working with a line drawing. But more details need to be sorted out. And I need to add a food element so I can do some research on that.

Jessie: I’ve ended up researching lots of different sorts of things because I write more than one series. In my first book, Live Free or Die, the main character is a volunteer sap buckets farm museumfire fighter and I was lucky enough to interview three different firefighters to help that story come alive.  I’ve interviewed sugar makers and conservation officers for my Sugar Grove series. Right now I am working on a historical series and have really enjoyed reading up on the late 1800s, visiting museums and interviewing the town historian in the place I am setting a new series.

One of my favorite ways to assemble my research thoughts is visually. So much of what I do as a writer, of course, uses words. Images feel like such a luxurious break and I like to use Pinterest to help me remember things and to imagine extravagantly.

Readers: What kind of research have you done? Was it fun or painful? Ask a Wicked a question about ours!

8 Thoughts

  1. Great post! Sherry, my protagonist goes to yard sales too, plus auctions and estate sales, so I can now do one of my favorite things all in the name of research – ha! Not that I need any more stuff to put in my little house, in fact I should be getting rid of it, but I just can’t help myself.

  2. I’m having a great time researching this series. My protagonist is a brewer and is opening a brew pub, so I get to visit breweries and drink lots of beer. Such a hardship!

  3. I don’t write but occasionally I record scenes, bits of conversations and physical descriptions when I am watching crowds. Once During a scenic train trip, I wrote many descriptions of what I observed from the other passengers. I enjoyed rereading and recalling the trip.

  4. I love research! Of course, I count almost anything as research–you never know when you might need it. Eating meals is research. Admiring scenery or architectural details is research. Talking to strangers on the street is research. Ain’t it grand?

    BTW, Edith, John Greenleaf Whittier is my 4th cousin 7x removed. I often wonder if everybody who lived in New England is connected somehow.

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