Sunday, September 13, 2009

Writing and the Zen of Research

Whoo!! Up to 30k words and still going! Such a rush, I tell you.

But in my momentary break from writing (which I've been doing since I woke up at 9:00 this morning, mind you) I wanted to talk for a bit about research.

As I discussed in my last post, for research I attempted this "Purple Party Pill" that I bought in some store that made me violently ill. (I'm pleased to say that the effects wore off after a few hours and I felt fine, but I couldn't sleep until 2:30 this morning.)

Well, last night, while I was temporarily stuck in my writing, I thought about my writing issues. I am horrible with filler, in case I haven't mentioned this before, so I decided that I needed to figure out how people talk. Break it down by conversation. What transitions their conversations? How do people get started talking when they see each other each day?

Where, I wondered, could I figure this out, besides trying to find a coffee shop or diner and easedrop on people? (Which I still might do, the jury is still out.)

Then it hit me. CHAT ROOM. I downloaded Yahoo messenger (I'm an MSN girl, myself) and started searching through chat room, after chat room, after chat room, looking for conversations. I won't tell you how many sexual advances were made toward me, but let's just say--chatting, not safe for kids anymore. (My response to each of those, btw, was "Married. Doing research for a novel. Not looking to talk." That tended to shut almost everyone up.)

I gleaned a few useful things from said foray into the dregs of society (and trust me, it really was the dregs). Most importantly when I disected a conversation that a girl who was running the room was having with two other guys. She didn't really know anything about the show they were discussing, so in an effort to rejoin the conversation, she compared it to a show she DID know, and spiraled off a conversation on that. It was interesting, but not as helpful as I had hoped.

Secondly. I am a complete and utter home body. I don't go out unless I absolutely have to, and even then, I'll try to send my husband in my stead. I only leave my home to go to work, or if I somehow get a WHOLE LOT OF ADRENALINE in me. I have always been this way, since I was a child.

This brings up several issues, but the most important one is that because of my unwillingness to go anywhere, I've never really experienced anything.

This is, of course, a problem because unless you know how to do something, you can't very well write it!

For example, this morning I spent an hour and a half trying to figure out how to start an ATV. I wanted to be able to describe, in detail, how to start and drive the thing, but I've never actually been on one. I don't even know if I've seen one in person. I searched and searched on the internet, but that can really only offer so much. So then I tried to find the closest ATV rental location. I didn't actually want to ride it, I just wanted someone to explain to me HOW to ride it. Then I found a store to buy one at, so I thought, "Okay. I'll just go there and tell them I'm doing research and not interested in buying." But even that thought was dreadful. You know those car salesmen...

And, ah ha! I thought. LIBRARY. The library has information on everything! I'll just go there and get a book on ATVs. And boating. And...

Again, my lack of desire to go out came back to bite me in the bum. And what? What else would my main characters do? I don't do anything, so how can they?

So then I researched my city's newspaper community section, and scoured for activities and events going on. There were a few ideas there, but nothing I could really use. I thought of a friend of mine, who had mentioned that he and a friend of his had gone berry picking and made jam. Now, to me, that sounds miserable. But that was just the kind of thing I needed to be able to think of for my characters.

The lesson for today? Writing what you know is a hell of a lot easier than writing what you don't know. And if you don't do anything, you should probably stick to fantasy novels, where you can just make everything up. (That's my future plan, anyway.)