Okay, so it is Blog Chain time again. Kat started this round with the following topic:
How do you do research for your settings, your story and your characters’ quirks? What interesting tidbits about yourself and the world you live in have you learned along the way?
Research, research, research. Prior to my new WiP I thought I was really good at research. You see, most of my stories are YA and set in modern times. Considering I work with this age bracket every day, researching teenagers is a daily occurence. And as for setting – well the two novels are set in a part of New York where I attended school, so again…kind of a no-brainer.
That isn’t to say I didn’t do any research at all. I did. I researched the setting and timing of certain vacations in the stories, the names of characters (I am really into the meanings and origins of names), and some of the philophical threads/themes within the first two story lines. I even researched some mythology that related to the storyline. But all in all, not too much researching. Nothing beyond a good google search.
But my current novel. Now that one is taking SERIOUS research. More than I thought I would ever need, especially since I don’t write historical pieces, or things set in culturally unique places.
It started with a crazy idea I had to have my two main characters (who are romantically drawn to each other) have a history of romantic involvement – like 500+ years ago. Then I thought that having one of them die at the hands of a serial killer would be cool – especially if there could be a paranormal twist to it. Considering the 1500’s was the height of the Inquisition, I figured this could be so easy to find.
Yeah…NO. It took a little digging. Sure, I found the serial killer/demon story easily enough. And found a setting. What didn’t count on was all the other information I would need to write a portion of the novel in 1589 Germany. Things like, what does village life look like, what did the German country side look like at that time, what was the political structue (a character has to report the murder), how was a trial conducted, how was the accused disposed of, etc, etc, etc. All of it required a lot of research.
All in all, of course I do research – both with my day-in, day-out job (to help research YA personalities, themes, etc), and with setting (investigating the ins and outs of the location of my storylines). As for the rest of the question, what have I learned along the way? I learn new stuff everyday. Here is a very short list of a few of the more interesting things I have learned in the last month of so while doing research for stories, character sketches, etc:
- There really is a pure white rose called “Pope John Paul II”.
- There is very little information on serial killers from the 1500s
- The werewolf legend started with an accused cannibel/serial killer in Germany named Peter Stumpp. He is also the backdrop for the “Little Red Riding Hood” story
- There are a lot of very interesting websites full of surf lingo – stuff I, as a person who likes to surf, have never heard of!
- Most mystical traditions, regardless of religious orientation, speak to the same kinds of metaphysical experiences
- Researching the common everyday life of villagers in 1589 Germany is kind of hard! (makes me wish I remembered more of my high school European History class)
I think you get the idea.
What about you guys? What kinds of research do you do on a regular basis? For more great ideas on this topic, stop over to Michelle’s blog for her insight on this topic (one I know she loves!)