Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Research: Formalized Curiosity by Derinda Babcock

Some people really enjoy researching a fact or time period in order to add realistic details to their fiction. Today, Derinda Babcock talks about the necessity of researching your story. -- Sandy

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. ~~ Zora Neale Hurston on

Derinda: Did you enjoy your history classes when you were in school, or were they classes you had to pass to meet graduation requirements?

Did you feel sick when you were told you had to research and create a presentation that would show your deep understanding of a historical theme or topic?

When you hear the word "research" what image pops into your mind? A scientist bent over test tubes in a lab? A doctoral student defending his thesis in front of a panel of inquisitors?

According to, "Research" originated in the 1500s from the Middle French word recercher, meaning "to seek." The word has now come to mean "diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc."

When I completed action research for my Master's program, I was engaged in diligent and systematic inquiry, though the end product differed from the results I now get when I research for my historical novels.

The purpose of my action research was to determine how successfully students could remember large blocks of information if they were taught how to create and use mnemonic devices.

The purpose of the historical research I now do is to find relevant pieces of information about historic people and places, so I can weave these into my novels in an organic and authentic manner. I hope the reader will learn new things, and will experience history in an entertaining and painless way.

As a Christian novelist, one of the most important goals to me is to craft stories that highlight the love, grace, and forgiveness God has for us, without being "preachy."

Historic research played a foundational role in the creation of Dodging Destiny, the first book in my DESTINY series. The book is a time-travel novel (which makes it fantasy). Most of the story happens in June - September 1857, Kansas Territory.

Facts I learned while researching:

* 1857 newspapers don't look anything like our current papers. Margins were small, and every inch of space was used, with little regard for the use of white space or good "vision engineering." Text density and a difficult-to-identify organization made it hard for me to scan for specific information.

Woohoo! Thanks, Johannes Kepler, for discovering the laws of planetary motion. Your discovery allows a writer like me to be historically accurate when describing a night sky in 1857, even if the story is fiction.

* There are many diaries and primary source documents available online. A soldier who described what his calvary unit did just before they got caught in a buffalo stampede was adapted to fit the stampede scene in Dodging Destiny.

What is the the thing you enjoy most about researching for your novel, or do you enjoy it?


Derinda Babcock has been an English Language Acquisition teacher for almost twenty-five years. During this time, she worked with students of all ages and many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The richness of this experience lends flavor and voice to the stories she writes. She enjoys historical research and the crafting of entertaining stories written from the Christian world view. 

About Dodging Destiny:

Lexie Logan thought she could run from God . . . and, like the Prophet Jonah, faced a storm of epic

Lexie knows God has called her to the mission field of Guatemala as a missionary's wife, but she has no intention of obeying. She has her own dreams: she wants to complete a Master's degree program in music and to play violin for the Topeka Symphony Orchestra.

As she waits to speak to an advisor, she pillows her head on her arms in the library of Kansas State University in June 2014, and wakes up in the back of a Conestoga wagon in June 1857, four years before the Civil War. Kansas is not a state, women do not have the vote, and slavery divides the nation. She is taken in by the Bells, who are homesteading in the newly opened territory.

While she lives with this family, God teaches her many things about obedience, trust, faithfulness, and love, but the most important lesson she learns is that there is no place in time or space where she can go to run from God, and that there is nothing that can separate her from His love.

When given a second chance, will she obey though there is risk involved, or will she play it safe and settle for second-best?

1 comment:

  1. I love newspapers for researching, though I'm sure they are as reliable for some things as our current papers. My biggest problem in research is hopping down bunny trails!


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