Researching for Fiction Writers

Happy May to all. Are the growing light and warmth lifting your spirits? I hope you’re finding new energy and inspiration for your creative endeavors.

I’m back at my desk after a month-long road trip. One benefit of a break from the same-old-same-old is an appreciation of the passage of time. Unlike my usual routine, days spent exploring new places don’t blend together in a blur. And for once, I don’t feel like I’ve just finished writing last month’s IWSG blog post.

In case you’re new to this discussion, the Insecure Writers’ Support Group hosts a first-Wednesday blog hop for writers. IWSG is a great resource for writers of all types. I’ve really enjoyed meeting and learning from other scribblers via this blog exchange. Give them a look here and join the conversation: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

This month’s question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Well, I’ve spent lots of time learning about poisons and historical erotic art. No, I didn’t use them both in the same story, but perhaps I should. Hmm…

So far, my stories all have contemporary settings, so I really don’t spend much time researching places and times. My settings are fictional, though based loosely on favorite towns. This gives me the freedom to plop down the people and places I need in a charming setting that becomes a character which both comforts and challenges my protagonist.

Poulsbo, Washington, another source of inspiration for my fictional settings.

Two of my as-yet-unpublished novels take place in a fictional Northern California town that blends  details from Half Moon Bay and Pleasanton in California, as well as Port Townsend, Enumclaw and Edmonds in Washington, and a dozen other charming, small-town Main Streets I’ve visited. You know the type: a few restaurants, some art galleries, a funky clothing boutique or two and, a tavern, a wine bar and, of course, a marvelous bookshop. The town is populated by local artists, artisans, entrepreneurs, and other colorful, sometimes prickly characters. It’s just the kind of place I’d like to live—but it works out much better in fiction.

In real life, small towns like that can be closed-up and closed-minded, not very welcoming to newcomers, and full of petty jealousies and interpersonal drama. People in a larger town, like the one I inhabit in real life, are less interested in poking their noses into others’ business. I like that freedom, as well as the access I have to lots of cultural events and beautiful places to walk.

But wouldn’t it be nice to live in a close-knit, funky, artists’ colony on the coast? Wouldn’t it be great to be part of a close-knit community that feels like family?

This month’s question has tickled my curiosity. I think I’ll make a point of visiting more charming little towns this summer—as research, mind you.

Is that tax-deductible?

7 thoughts on “Researching for Fiction Writers

  1. M.J. Fifield

    I love setting stories in places that I’ve been. Or creating a setting based on a real town. It’s nice to be able to add those little details to a story.

    Recently, I’ve been thinking that I need to visit Scotland, for the benefit of my new WIP. Didn’t even think about the tax-deductible thing. Definitely something to look into… 🙂

    Reply
  2. Kelsie Engen

    Ohh, I’ve done the same thing with my WIP novel right now: creating a fictional town based on a real one. And it’s nice to be able to make up things that suit my story. 🙂

    P.S. I think travel for research can be tax-deductible. Definitely something to check out. 😉

    Reply
  3. yvettecarol

    What a good idea to go visit some coastal towns. Isn’t it great the way sharing these monthly questions stirs up all sorts of inspiration! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Stephanie Faris

    Many of my books are set in fictional (or unspecified) towns. Recently I wrote a book set in NYC. I’ve been there twice, but only for a few days each time. Even worse, the book’s plot required the characters to visit multiple sites and move across the city. It was NOT easy to research all of that, even with all of the information we have available on the internet. Without the internet, I couldn’t have done it at all.

    Reply

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