Saturday, August 07, 2010

PROCESS-The 24-hour process of collecting RESEARCH

I know students and adults alike that cringe when they hear the word “RESEARCH”. I’m sure that somewhere along the way, they were forced to fact find for a topic or theme they had absolutely no interest in what-so-ever. As writers, we are able to CHOOSE the topics, themes and genres that we write or accept to write. Research becomes something different to us. Collecting and gathering bits of research can lead a writer to a story and can help fill in the blanks that round-out a character or story.

Research comes in many forms. Information can be channeled through the BOOKS we read. I finished read The Alchemist (see my Shelfari at the side) and I couldn't help but pull my prior knowledge from the stories that I have read before. One of those is The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine. The Two Princesses sparked my interest in Norse Mythology. Not long after, I read East, from the Rebecca Caudill reading list. Since then, I've read a good five books or more on Odin and Yggdrasil then started to think of ways I could use these myths in stories of my own.

I find that NEWS reports can be great sources of information too. As mundane as the local news can be, I choose to skim through it and turn instead to national and world broadcasts (and one's with a bit of human interest stories as well). My morning and afternoon drives between school and home give me opportunity to listen to NPR. The news opens new windows for my writing.

Not that long ago, one of NPRs programs highlighted a human interest story about a film star who had passed away. The star's life after film intrigued me. I wanted to know more, unfortunately, I had not written her name down. I searched the NPR website, I called on the assistance of a friend-of-a-friend who works for NPR, and I even placed an email query. To no avail. Then, on the way home from a family vacation last summer, the story surfaced again. We were driving through the hometown of the star's retirement retreat! A flyer announced that she had lived there. Again, I have a renewed interest and a need for research. She's too interesting for me to let her go again!

One of my other stories involves fact-finding that I thought should be easy --in my own backyard. But alas, it wouldn't be research if it were that easy. Many of the FIRST-PERSON experts that I would like to talk to are disappearing. (There is one that I've been told I could bribe with banana bread and would talk if I would be willing to visit regularly!) The local LIBRARY has been helpful in providing the source material, but it is so scattered and unorganized that it becomes a hefty job to search for one small fact. I have used old plat charts, news-clippings, and even advertisements to help me piece together the information that I need. Photographs are the best!

PHOTOGRAPHS tell not only time, place and person, but can also help explain style, expression, etc. For example, two of my characters are pre-teen boys during the 1920s. The only photos I have found of boys without hats on are from a few class photos. Otherwise, boys in the 1920s wore hats. Photos with written details on them are the most valuable (I cringe to think what scrapbooking is doing for our future record-keepers...when the glue wears off and the pictures fall out of the page, what we will know then?!)

As writers, we can let research drive us or research can tag along, but throughout all of my own writing, I keep it there for the entire ride.

Share one of your writing/research tips!

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