Digging the Well

I love collecting information, learning facts, and organizing tidbits, so you'd think book research would be natural for me. It's not. It's daunting. Though it's not the work that scares me, but the fact that I never have an idea of where to start. However, as I've gotten more manuscripts under my belt, I've developed a general approach which has helped me a ton, especially in my latest revision.

The big picture. Current fashions to political events to the most popular song. What's the weather like? Economic times? Predominate religion? These are jumping off points. Some of these details may never actually show up in the manuscript, but they can influence the world. For instance, your 15-year-old character may not be directly affected by an economic recession (might not even know what the word means), but his parents will be aware of it - the type of house he lives in could be dictated by it - his clothes - even the trends in pop culture (no joke - there's a theory that ties economics inversely to the popularity of vampires/zombies). 

The finer details. These nitty-gritties are the tidbits that you normally think about: maps, diagrams, timelines, important notes, so I won't belabor this point. It's critical to keep this organized in a readily accessible way (like Katy's note cards - or whatever works for you). I prefer cloud-based digital files that I can access from anywhere. Whatever works for you, but you'll want these at your fingertips when it comes to writing and revising...instead of scouring your manuscript to remember the name of the main street in Palo Alto. 

Character specifics. In fact, I keep all my character interviews and backstories along side these other research notes. This includes their basic traits, tics, and the like. Here's a good place to keep photos that inspired your character. Again, all of these notes should be something easy to refer back to when you need to know if Martha has green eyes or blue.

Keep updating. These files/documents are alive. Never be afraid to add or modify as needed. At the very least, go back through and update them at each major revision. 

And before you know it, you'll have piles of note cards, shreds of napkins, diagrams, sketches, pinterest boards, and excel spreadsheets (Gawd, I love excel spreadsheets).  All of this compiled info, my friends, is your well of authentic details (as Jackie mentioned) that will breathe the life into your characters and world. 


I've been stockpiling index cards for just this reason.

In other news, you should read (in all your free time) A CONFUSION OF PRINCES by Garth Nix. I'm almost finished with it.

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