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Research: my writing journey part two

May 5, 2017

This is the Second post in a series of Writing: My journey posts.

And warning… they re NOT in order! πŸ™‚

More like a crazy mishmash of thoughts that occur to me.

 

Research

What is research to a writer? A fast track to FBI monitoring depending on your Google searches. “What is the most effective poison and how to administer it?” “How do I build a bomb out of scraps found in a disused mechanic’s shop?” “Best brand of Spaceship?” – okay so that one is totally made up… still my point is, your Google Search history may put you on the top ten FBI most wanted list for “suspicious activity”

To me, there are so many ways to research. Google is just one of them.

 

I write science fiction and fantasy (so you’re probably thinking… well… that’s all made up nonsense from the inside of your potentially empty or overflowing brain.) But people are still people. The things they talk about, their stresses and fears are all the same. (No matter which planet or underground cave they come from).

So, research is still a necessary evil.

What are some of the way to research? I quite like the following. (and just to be particularly irritating. This is my list of top 9 ways to research (not 10, not 5).

1./ Talk to people (I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of introvert voices have Β cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.)

Dialogue… listen to how people speak.

What do they say to each other and how do they say it. Listen to how they cut each other off or talk over the top of each other. The power plays or one-up-manship games in group dynamics or between lovers. How a mentor and student speak to each other, how mates or girlfriends chatter. Listen to the games parents play with their children, the subtext in EVERY conversation.

List to what is being said and MOST importantly what is NOT being said.

Body language cues, how people telegraph their interest, or boredom, flirtation, anger or annoyance? This is a goldfield… so, mine away and then use it to create and then blow relationships up!

 

2./ Watch people. (This one the introverts might actually enjoy).

Same as the above… but more with the creepy watching and less with the actual talking to people. How do people interact at a club? cafe? park? How do families interact with each other, how about children or friends. Do they walk close together, is there distance between them, what hand gestures do they use, what facial expressions? What can you see? (Don’t stare for too long though, you might get the cops called on you!)

 

3./ Library visits – more books. Non-fiction, fiction, newspapers, history people! (…and the smell! sigh!) How did “the past” think? How does “the now” think? There is soooo much here you can explore and use!

And besides – libraries are soooo wonderful

Look at all the books…

 

4./ Ride the Train (without turning your iPod/iPhone/smartphone/laptop/tablet/walkman, discman on – still have the earphones in though, you don’t want people to actually think you are listening!) OMG train people are sooooo interesting (and scary and creepy and loud!). People’s phone conversations that you cannot help but hear every juicy detail of, work colleagues, sick people, bored people, angry people… watch and listen to everything! Just yesterday I saw a little elderly lady with the requisite curly grey hair and wrinkled face chatting happily with a monster of a man built from walls of muscle, covered in tattoos and facial jewelry. And they were chatting amicably. I don’t know if they were work colleagues, family or random strangers but my god I wanted to know more!

 

5./ Read other writer’s books

… just do this anyway πŸ™‚

 

6./ Read everything you can get your hands on

Again, just do this anyway. There is lots to learn about how other people think. Whether it is good… or bad writing. It’s all got something in it!

7./ Talk to people… I know, I know. For the introverts out there this is the most horrifying thing to imagine and just to ramp up the fear factor, I’m going to mention it twice. Sorry (not sorry).

But there is soooooo much gold here you can use.

 

8./ WATCH TV and movies and webisodes and YouTube…

Okay this one is my personal favorite. Mainly because I LOVE television and movies.

Listen to the dialogue, watch the body language, look at the setting and mood and lighting. How has the plot been set up? Watch for when the red herrings are planted, watch for the misdirection, when is the trap laid (or sprung). When is the leading information placed? CLIFF HANGERS!!! Watch for the hints of the badness to come in the music and the lighting and the editorial cuts. How do close ups change the mood of a scene. These are great for watching subtle eye movements. How is a story told? Where are the clues and how early do they crop up? How often do we go back to a clue? or have new clues layered in.

This is story telling at its finest… 21 mins for a half hour comedy, 42 mins for a one hour drama. 204 minutes for a good movie. All tell a story in a different way… There is soooooooooooo much to learn here.

If you like a show, figure out WHY you like it.

How does it hook you? Why do you keep watching? Story arc, character arc, character interaction? chemistry? You can use sooo much of this in your own writing.

 

9./ Listen to the Behind-the-Scenes commentaries of said movies and television. In particular the Director commentaries and the Writer commentaries. (Okay bear with me).

Directors are basically writers… they are telling a story. They have a message, a theme, an arc they are trying to convey (to seduce you or terrify you) – Rather than in a book with words, they tell a story with pictures, sounds, lighting, set, special effects, actors, actresses, tone, close up, wide shot, and of course, the script, written by the amazingly talented script writers… The script MIGHT not be their own words (in some cases the director is also a script writer so therefore they “get it”) but my gosh they are still telling a story and you should take the time to listen to the thought processes of how they “tell” their story.

It’s fascinating stuff and hey… a lot of story telling is just that – story telling. Which means ideas, concepts and tricks on how to communicate a message to the audience. Which means, you can learn from them to tell you’re own stories.

This one is actually my personal favorite. I do this a lot.

 

I guess, the big take away from my above waffle is this –Β EVERYTHING is research.

You are researching right now, by reading this…

Aren’t you a productive little thing?

Do you have interesting ways of researching? I’d love to hear them.

 

Other parts in the series

Part One – Queries

Part Three – First Draft

Part Four – Plotter or Pantser

 

Β© Laurie Bell and Solothefirst. All Rights to the works and publications on this blog are owned and copyrighted by Laurie Bell and Solothefirst. The Owner of this site reserves all permissions for access and use of all documents on this site.

 

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16 Comments
  1. Excellent recap of the ways to research. I use Google a lot. (not so interesting though)

  2. Great post! I watch my favorite movies…over and over and over (totally relating to the popcorn guy).

  3. Nice post! Strangely enough I ventured into writing because of a tele-serial which abruptly went off air. I simply had to know what happened next πŸ˜€

    • Wooooo that’s great to hear… not that the show went off the air because that is a tragedy! But that there is your muse!! Me too 😍

      • Oh yes, I will eternally be grateful to the makers and actors for first doing such a brilliant job and then driving us crazy with their illogical sequences and then the vanishing act. And voila – Dahlia was born πŸ˜€ And et tu? How cool is that!

      • Sooooo wonderful!! πŸ˜†

  4. Loved this post! I love reading books on random subjects (the cat reading is my spirit animal πŸ˜‚) and researching when I’m out and about so Google’s sort of become my new best friend πŸ˜‚ All the best!

    • Thank you Rachael!!! Yes… think of how hard you are working πŸ˜‰

      • Haha thanks Laurie! No doubt next week I’ll be walking out of the library with a wheelbarrow full! πŸ˜‚ Best of luck with your writing! πŸ™‚

      • Oh I love doing that… pile higher than my head. Got that off my nana and poppa! They still do that in their 90s. Thanks Rachael… good luck with your writing too!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. First Draft: My writing journey part three | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  2. Querying: my writing journey part one | Rambles, writing and amusing musings
  3. Plotter or Panster? The joy of a fight scene. My writing journey part four | Rambles, writing and amusing musings

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