Even if you write fiction, you have to get your facts straight. The story of a novel may be pure imagination, but the detail better ring true or readers won't stick with you. For instance, if your hero is a motorcycle enthusiast you might want to know the names of a few real motorcycles. Or if your heroine is a famous French chef, you better include some restaurant lingo or French cuisine recipe names. Researching is a necessary evil.
Some authors love the research phase and spend weeks at it before they ever start the first chapter. I prefer to do it as I go. I'm not always sure what I need to know until I need to know it.
While writing The Morning After, I had to stop and call the Amarillo Marriage License Department. I had a wonderful conversation with a woman who not only educated me on the law in Amarillo in regards to getting married but charmed me with her drawl.
For the first book in the Love and Murder series I'm currently writing, I brought my family into my research. I wrote a scene involving a kidnap victim and a gunshot from a sheriff. I could picture in my mind how I wanted it to go down but would it work? I assigned everyone their part and told them what would happen. They acted it out and my error was glaring.
The Internet is a goldmine for most of the research although I can get so caught up that not much writing gets accomplished. I got hung up for an hour the other day trying to find out the name of the golden grasses in the Chino Valley area. In the middle of a scene, I needed the name. Sometimes I might type xxx and come back to it later, but other times it's as if I get an itch and can't write another word without scratching out the fact.
Other writers are also a good source for research. Who else can you go to when you need to ask a graphic question like would a condom break if it had a pinhole in it and are the statistics I found on the Internet accurate as to the failure rate of a vasectomy? I suppose I could've called a doctor, but the varied answers I got were a lot more fun than the doctor might have recited to me.
No telling what questions will pop up tomorrow when I'm writing. What does an Austrian police car look like? What's the name of the first room you enter in a castle? Can a Navajo blanket fit in a saddle bag? Who has jurisdiction over a murder on a college campus? What's the name of an unusual herbal tea? How do you say "kiss me right here" in German?
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