Monday, June 20, 2016

Robin Gianna & Research Your Way to a More Believable Book

Please welcome Robin Gianna back to the blog today!

Research is one of those things some writers love and others hate, but no matter which camp you belong to, most stories require at least a little information-gathering. The trick to research is to learn enough to enrich your story with believable detail, but not to spend so much time on it that you never get the book written, or even started!  

Give yourself a set period of time for the first sweep of research.

Avoiding the pitfall of researching in place of writing is fairly easy. Give yourself a set period of time, maybe a week, to get important research done.  Information about your setting, for example, or details about your characters’ professions, or the time period you’ve set the story in.  After a week, get going on the book.  When you’re writing and come to a place in the story where you realize you need to look something up, don’t stop to do it!  Instead, put a bracket there and keep going.  When you’ve hit your word count goal, put on your research hat again, search for the brackets in the manuscript, then spend time finding out all you need to know for those particular scenes.

The Internet

Where and how to research will depend a bit on what you’re writing, but the easiest place to get started in on the Internet. The Web is, of course, an amazing resource, making our lives as writers so much easier than it used to be.  What’s the average temperature in Italy in April?  What do Parisians usually eat for breakfast?  What do houses in Guatemala look like?  Ask most any question, and you can find an answer.  

The library

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still stop into the library when I’m starting a book. While there are plenty of images to be found online, I love having a book with photos of where I’m setting my story, filled with information that often is easier to look through than surfing dozens of Internet sites.  I’ve also had a few occasions where I was able to find a memoir or biography that enriched my story in ways I couldn’t have foreseen.

Talk to people who know

But nothing beats talking to people who are experts on whatever you’re researching.  For my medical romances, I talk to family, friends, and acquaintances in the medical field for ideas, details, and sometimes even dialogue so I’ll know how characters would really talk in a trauma situation, for example, or in the OR.  I hear you saying, “Well, that’s nice for you, Robin, because you know people in the field, but I don’t know any police officers to interview for my suspense story.”  In my experience, people enjoy talking about their work and what they do, or what it was like growing up in New York City, or their work travels to foreign countries.  I’ll bet you know people who’ve had interesting experiences that might trigger a story idea.  And if for your current WIP you need to learn about police procedure or what the life of an EMT is like or what an archaeologist does on a dig, a phone call will likely get you invited to the police station or firehouse or university to talk to one or more people about it all.  I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Research your way to new ideas

And that brings me to my last, but more important, point about research! Often, we don’t even know what we need to know for a story until we talk with people who have a deep understanding of what we want to learn, or study a book on the subject in-depth. A number of times, research has given me insight I would never have found on my own, and which gave me a new scene or even sent my story in a direction I hadn’t planned on. Sometimes that happens through Internet research, but it occurs more often when I’m talking one-to-one with someone. And those scenes and new directions always have enriched my stories for the better. For this reason, I believe writers should research more deeply than we think we need to, even if we only use 20% of what we learn in the actual book. Knowing a lot about a setting or time period or career gives us a deep understanding of the world our characters live in, which shines through when we’re writing from their perspective. It’s one of the things that brings a character to life for the reader, which is so important.

So remember—research isn’t just about those little details like average temperatures or popular foods in Venezuela or trendy places to live in San Francisco. Digging deep will truly inspire new ideas and directions that will make your characters more believable, your story stronger, and maybe even make it easier to writer.  And isn’t that always a great thing?

How about you?  How do you go about researching your stories?  Any interesting things that have happened to you along the way that brought a book to life?  I’d love to hear about it.


Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter

His Cinderella midwife 

Gabriella Cain prides herself on the exemplary service she provides to her celebrity moms-to-be. So she certainly doesn't appreciate Dr. Rafael Moreno suddenly taking over her department…even if he is royalty—and gorgeous! 

But distrust soon turns to secrets shared as irresistible Rafe proves dangerously easy to fall for. With a painful past behind her, can Gabriella dare hope for a fairy-tale ending with her prince?

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Thanks Robin!
It sure is easy to disappear into a research cave - love the idea of setting a timeline to avoid staying there too long.

Anyone have interesting research stories? I know I've found out more about branding cattle than I ever thought I'd know! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Humanity Should

Humanity should = Compassion

Humanity should = Love

Humanity should = Support

Humanity should = Respect

Humanity should = Freedom

Humanity should = Hope

In the midst of yet more sadness and heartbreak in the world,
it's important to look for and celebrate the moments of kindness and hope.

Every classroom in our school boasts a Positive Space poster. We believe in the message.

We have a bathroom for anyone who isn't comfortable using the group bathrooms.

We have books throughout the school representing all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. We read them together. We discuss how we can make the lives of others better.

Posters quoting powerful messages from Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, MLK Jr., Gandhi, and so many more decorate our classrooms and hallways and spark questions and discussions.

Young voices question the hate they hear about in the news.

Young hearts are devastated to hear how humans sometimes treat each other.

Young people build connections and relationships and friendships with other young people who look/think/act/believe/love/feel/suffer/celebrate/wonder differently.

It's not everything.

But, it's a start.