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Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Couldn't Find Them!

I searched everywhere--in closets, in drawers, in cabinets, and even under the beds. But my characters were nowhere to be found. I was halfway through my first novel when they deserted me. They won't admit it, but I think they were angry with me because I wasn't writing enough. I had a good reason, though. I was researching. There were some finer details in my story that I needed to gather information about. For example: The town it takes place in had no name. I had temporarily called it Smalltown because, well, it was a small town. But I got sick of being reminded by Word every time I typed it that it wasn't a real word. The town needed a name! Then there was the whole matter of police dogs. Leon, my friendly yellow lab character, was a drug-sniffing canine, and I didn't even know if yellow labs could be police dogs. They can, by the way, and they are actually quite good at it. And of course there was the issue of the Irish Mafia, which I conveniently referenced without knowing a thing about them. Did you know they are most prominent in Philadelphia? Speaking of Irish, I had to research Irish names because some of my characters were getting sick of being called things like Irish Dude. They really needed proper names. Thankfully, my characters showed back up when I was done researching. And I quickly went back to typing like crazy. What about you? At what point during a WIP do you do the research? Before? After? Or sometime in between?


Dominique said...

I do some of my research before, if any of the issues occur to me in advance. Otherwise, I'll research things as I go as I realize what information I need.

Congrats on finding your characters.

Anonymous said...

Probably a little bit before, and then as needed. I also try to write about what I know a bit about (or fantasy that I can make up) so I don't have to do tons of research. I love learning new things, but research takes a bit of the joy out of writing for me.

Strange Fiction said...

My heroine in my first ms is Irish so I had to find Irish names too. I research on a need to know basis. Like you I use things like Villian or Planet X until I come up with a name I like. I also insert [ ] brackets to indicate where I need 'techno babble' etc.

Stephanie Faris said...

Usually in between. Once I get an idea for a novel I just want to start writing. I need to know the basic foundation of the story before I can figure out where it's going.

Beth said...

Personally I think Irish Dude has a ring to it ;) I research during...I just write until I get to a part where I'm like, "Um, I have no idea (what this job is like, where this place actually is on the map, if this type of whatever actually exists)".

Corey Schwartz said...

Glad they're back. Wouldn't want Irish Dude to be lost forever!

Suzanne said...

Before. During. NEVER after! ;)

Before it helps me to get ideas. I am usually not looking for anything specific. Just things that interest me. Eras. clothing. Music. Insane Asylums. You know....

Then during because I want to get all the facts right.

Great post! And by the way, Thank God For Google.

Rebecca @sometimesnonsense said...

Yep, I'm more of an in between sort of girl when it comes to research. This why I'm so attached to having internet access when I write because I find myself doing all sorts of random searches on things I'm writing about, like hotels, cities, names. The only problem is how distracting the internet is when you're trying to write and not check blogs or twitter!

Karen said...

I do a little bit of research at each stage of the process. But I try to put off the bulk of it until the first draft is done because the first go-round I'm just trying to get the story out. I'll worry about getting the details right later.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

I'm a combo of before and during. With the novel that I'm writing right now, I generally will go [seventh sanctum] if I need a good name for a place or what have you. If I am writing away from all my background materials for whatever reason and I can't remember something, like the name of a deity, I'll do the brackets thing with a descriptor for whatever it is that needs to go in there.

In the more contemporary fiction that I've written, if there's any research that needed to be done it's been done as I write just so I can get some little details right. But I've never worried too much about getting things perfectly 100% accurate as far as characters' jobs go because I know I need to stretch reality a bit to get the story where it needs to be.

Rae said...

I just wanted to stop by and thank you for the comments on my blog post- A Hot Button Issue. I appreciate your honesty and for offering your opinion. Thank you!

Patti said...

I mostly research as I go. I'll stop when I come to something I need to write more about or I'll put a note in the book. Like yesterday I wrote in brackets (reserach 1700 century diseases in England).

If I was doing historical fiction, which I love, I'd probably do more before I started the book.

Lori said...

I am not a big researcher, but I do change the characters' names frequently. It's just too much fun to name them.

Lazy Writer said...

My current WIP required more research than my first ms. So I did quite a bit of it before hand, but I still have to do a little as I go.

Struggling Writer,
Writing what you know does limit the amount of research necessary, doesn't it?

I use the brackets, too. I got sick of seeing them, though. That's why I stopped and did the research.

When I wrote my first ms, I had no idea what was going to happen, so I did no research before. I was kind of forced to do it as I went.

Irish Dude isn't so bad, is it? But he really wanted a proper name!

I'm glad they came back, too. I kind of missed Irish Dude.

Amen! I couldn't live without Google!

Being on line when writing is a distraction, isn't it?

Getting the writing done is the most important thing!

There is not as much research involved in contemporary fiction.

No problem. It's a touchy issue, and I admire you for posting about it.

I wonder how I'd do writing a historical. I think the research involved would put me over the edge.

I love picking out names for my characters, too. I usually don't change them, though. Unless of course I named them something like Irish Dude to begin with. :)

storyqueen said...

Wait a minute! Irish Dude is in MY WIP! Two-timing jerk!

Actually, I research in the middle of the book, just to see if I am right about stuff (kind of like your yellow lab example). But I try to write at least one page a day on the project so those lazy characters don't go off on a vacation and leave me hanging.


KM said...

"Smalltown" made me laugh, because it reminds me of "Smallville," where Superman grew up. I kind of like Smalltown, though; gives it some character, and it's certainly easy to remember.

And I totally know what you mean about researching in the midst of writing. Some of my characters in my second WIP go to Alaska, and I realized I've never been there; I've been researching frantically all about salmon fishing, the town of Seward, and how much daylight Anchorage gets in the summer. Whew! It's hard work. ;)

Jill Kemerer said...

Congrats on finding your characters! I research before and in-between. Things always come up that I hadn't prepared for.

Anna C. Morrison said...

Before, after, and everywhere in between. I know now more about the 1966 VW Bus than anyone other than a mechanic should ever know. But the most important thing to know is that it does NOT have a glove box. I had to do major rewrites because of that fact. Major. So whenever you feel the research itch, scratch it! It could save you hours of rewrites.

Mandy said...

I do a little basic research in the beginning, but usually I research as I go along. If I'm questioning something, or I'm not sure what I'm writing about, I pause, open my web browser and learn all I need to know. Then, I close the window and start typing!

Carrie Harris said...

I'm another before and during person, although I have to admit something: I wouldn't hesitate to name someone Irish Dude in one of my mannies. Although I write comedy, so I guess that helps.

Lily said...

You can only do so much beforehand. Your story can take you in a direction you didn't predict.

BTW... You'd be surprised at the words I add to my dictionary just so it'll leave me alone!

Lazy Writer said...

That jerk! I thought there was something fishy about him. :)

I bet that research has been fun, though. I love learning about new places.

Things do have a way of coming up, don't they?

I'm doing more research earlier this time around for that very reason. I had to do a lot of rewriting the last time because I waited too long to do the research.

Closing the window and getting back to typing is the important thing!

Feel free to use the name. I'm done with it. Although, I understand he's sort of a two-timer. :)

That's a great idea! I'd never have to see a word underlined in red again!

Amber Lynae said...

Research gets me trapped and I find it hard to move ahead with the story until it has been ironed out. But I like your way of insert something general until you get back to it.

I think I will name my next son Irish Dude. I'm only a small part Irish but it works.

Diane said...

Irish Dude seems like a lot of typing. I would have suggested lad or lassie, but I am glad you finally decided on names.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Before and during. Sometimes I don't know I'll need to research something until I'm knee-deep in manuscript.

Life is good! said...

to complicated for me! that is exactly why i just love to read a good book, with all the research done and me to enjoy! good luck

Terri Tiffany said...

LOL I love the Irish dude:)) I do research as I go--I also adlib on the names of things until I do!

Tabitha Bird said...

I am like you, when I need to info then i go looking for it. 'Irish dude' I love that :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Fortunately I don't have to do a lot of research for my novels - but, I am meticulous about certain things... I do my research both during and after I have a first draft....some things can wait, some can't -- and sometimes when I am stuck on what I want to write next I'll do some research to get me going again :)

T. Anne said...

Usually the very end lol! I don't like to interupt my writing mojo ;)

K. M. Walton said...

I do my research as I write because I never know where the story may go. It just works for me that way.

In my current WIP, I haven't named my town either. But, I think I'm leaving it that way, on purpose. I want the town to be 'anytown' in 'anywhere'.

Kim Kasch said...

I forget names so easily - I think it's 'cuz Mom used to say, "Jeff, Todd, Kim, Tammy, which ever one you are - come here."

Anyway, I don't put much importance on names - so when I'm writing I pick family member's names and use them. If I get a book published, there will be revisions - or I'll end up in the morgue. :)Someone would undoubtedly kill me.

Lazy Writer said...

Irish Dude would make a great name for a child! :)

Maybe I'll pick shorter temporary names next time. Irish Dude is longer to type. I like Lass and Lassie!

I know what you mean. The research part doesn't always become necessary until we are already way into a ms.

Life is Good,
Just keep reading then! It's one of my favorite hobbies.

Apparently the Irish Dude is quite popular if you'd like to borrow him for a while.

Everyone seems to be in love with the Irish Dude! What's the deal?

Research would be a great thing to do when I get stuck in my writing. Maybe I'll try that.

T. Anne,
I don't like to interupt the mojo either.

Anytown has a nice ring to it, though...

Too funny! My mom used to do the same thing, and now I find myself doing it, too. My kids make fun of me, but I'm sure they'll do it themselves one day!

Solvang Sherrie said...

I'm a total research junkie. Beginning, middle, end. Anytime is a good time for research =)

Wend's Place said...

Wow! Love it, haha! (there's the red line again ugg)!!! DO WE NEED TO RESEARCH?

The only time I research is when I want to check that nobody else has used it already. I suppose research depends on what you write about. Using my imagination to create the world I am writing about or just writing autobiographically no one can say I am WRONG or incorrect and that has a certain LACK of anxiety or stress about it.

Don't get me wrong I know all about that dastardly google bar and how it can become addictive to google your pets first name but hey I am through the addiction and FREE!

Faith said...

I do my best to research things after I create a basic outline, in hopes that I'll catch most of the things I need to find out before the writing begins. It doesn't always work though, and I often find myself stalled or skipping over a scene because I just can't keep writing without specific information!