Is gathering the facts to make your writing shine tedious or fun? Author June Foster talks about how she's learned to keep the fun in her novel research. -- Sandy
Since I write contemporary romance set right here in the US, I don't need a lot of knowledge about present day culture such as clothing and hair styles, cars, movies and entertainment, types of food, or other components of American society.
The setting or where the story takes place must reflect the actual location. My novels are set in the Pacific Northwest and northern California and one in Alabama. Though the towns are fictional, I still have to be consistent with the location, climate, the dialects, the type of food people eat and so forth. In other words, I wouldn't have my Washington state characters talking with southern accents and eating grits and biscuits unless they recently moved from Arkansas or Alabama.
My stories reflect specific issues people face in today's world: anger, self worth, obesity, abortion, homosexuality, and many more. My Christian characters confront these challenges through the power of God and His word. For example, the hero in my current WIP is homeless so this is a topic I've had to thoroughly explore. I had the opportunity to visit an amazing Christian homeless shelter in Birmingham, AL and interview the chaplain in charge. A treasure trove of information. So, for each novel, I research the topic before placing my characters there.
When to do research? Back to my homeless character. I went online before I began the book to learn about the different kinds of shelters, why people go homeless, what to expect at a shelter, the dangers of living on the streets, etc. However, I found as I wrote my chapters that other questions arose so I switched from the internet to the story and back again as needed.
Research isn't tedious like writing a paper for a college class. At least not in my opinion. I'm so involved with my characters and their lives that it's fascinating and rewarding to learn about them and stay authentic. One advantage of doing research—I learn about a variety of subjects I never would've thought about before. I now know more about how a NICU works, adoption procedures in Washington state, wildlife management in Alabama, the workings of the ER and the duties of an interior designer. Research. Have fun with it.