Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Research…It’s in the Details by Mindy Obenhaus

Today author Mindy Obenhaus shares how she researched one of her books in order to add those luscious little details that allow readers to feel like they're part of the story. -- Sandy

Mindy: Write what you know.

It’s a phrase writers often hear. And while it may sound simple, it’s not always possible. Like when I decided to set a series of books in Ouray, Colorado. I love Ouray and had spent a few vacations in the tiny town, but I live in a large city in Texas. The differences in these two places goes beyond topography to a completely different way of life.

People in Ouray have that pioneer spirit. Most are there because they fell in love with the town and wanted to call it home. For some, this means ditching corporate America, cashing in their 401K and starting their own business. For others it means holding three different jobs. Whatever it takes.

Though I would not have known this had I not spent time in Ouray. Not as a tourist, but as one genuinely wanting to know more about the uniqueness of this town. I built friendships with some of the locals. Friends I call, text and email to ask the strangest questions. Yes, it’s the minutia that drives me crazy. But it’s that same minutia that makes a story come to life.

In my upcoming release, Rescuing the Texan’s Heart, my heroine is an avid ice climber. Ice climbing is popular is Ouray, but we rarely even see ice here in Texas. So, being a detail oriented person, guess what I had to do?

Yep, I went to Ouray and tried my hand at ice climbing. Did it help? You betcha. In talking with my guide, I realized she was as passionate about climbing as I am about writing. And, having taken part in the sport myself, I had a better idea of how my hero might feel when he was introduced to climbing.

Write what you know. Or, at least, know what you write. Details enhance a story. No, we don’t want to dump all the information we’ve gathered in order to show that we’ve done our research. That would be like opening a carton of salt and pouring it on a choice steak. But used sparingly, giving the reader the details they need as they need them brings out the natural flavor of our stories, making them better than we ever imagined. And, hopefully, bringing the reader back again and again.

What kind of personal experiences have you used in stories that helped you draw your reader in so they get a good feel for what your character is doing?


Mindy Obenhaus lives in Texas with her husband and two of her five children. Her debut novel, The Doctor’s Family Reunion, is a finalist in ACFW’s 2014 Carol Awards. When she’s not writing, Mindy enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her grandkids.