As I have been writing I keep finding the need to research. When I was writing my NaNoWriMo project Dragons at Dawn I relied heavily on my old Dungeons and Dragons books as inspiration for spells that the wizard hero was casting, as well as for the demons he was fighting. For my current project Finding Valhalla I checked out several books on Norse mythology as inspiration and reference material. For example, I am currently re-reading the legend of Ragnarok to see how I might fit at least pieces of the mythos into my story. As you might expect, an apocalyptic theme like Ragnarok isn’t something that should be covered in a single book, so this research will help me determine what parts to reveal now and which parts will be included in future books.

The Internet is also useful for research. You can find all sorts of stuff out there if you know how to look. Let me give you a list of some of the ways I have used the Internet to help me with my books:

  • Character description: I had a basic idea of how I wanted my main characters to look. I took one simple feature, the hair color, and did a Google image search. Then I went through the images found and picked a few that I thought best represented my mental image of the character. These pictures (copied into Scrivener for easy reference) have helped me focus on the characters as I write.
  • Setting description: Like with the character images, I figured it would be a good idea to have pictures of some of the primary locations in my book. For example, my heroine works in a bookstore/coffeeshop. So I did a Google search for similar locations and found a few that I liked. My heroine’s house is based on a house for sale in my neighborhood that caught my eye. I went to the realtor’s website and downloaded pictures of the house, inside and out, that I can use to help me as I write each scene. I did a similar thing for a condo owned by one of her friends. Google Maps also helps when finding directions to places or interesting locations in an area.
  • Other descriptions: Characters and settings aren’t the only things that need to be described. My heroine has a magical sword that needed an image. I also needed to find the right car for her rich friend to drive. Each of these things were found after a short Google search.
  • Names: My heroine told me her name was Miranda when she first grabbed me and demanded that I tell her story. The rest of the club didn’t come as easily. My hero is named George after the legend of Saint George and the Dragon, but then I realized I didn’t really know the legend, so I used Wikipedia to find out more. Miranda’s mother was named Amanda because it rhymed. I named some of the smaller characters only after some research on websites that showed the meanings of the names. For example, I found Kari’s name only after searching for popular Norwegian names and finding one with a meaning that seemed to fit the character in my head. The name of the bookstore was based on Norse mythology, and the name of Miranda’s sword was from an English to Norwegian translation through Google Translate.

Please leave a comment on ways you do research for your writing.



Filed under The Writing Experience

3 responses to “Research

  1. I really liked this post. Thanks for a great insight into how you do your research!
    I usually have a protagonist showing up with a bag full of basics. – A personality, a vague personal history, relations to others. And then it’s up to me to fill in the blanks. How this works depends entirely on the story. I’ve had to conduct lots of historical research for one novel, find out a lot about photography for another, etc. Usually I start out with a bit of research, then write, and when the first draft is finished I return to add/revise/delete.

  2. This is an intriguing idea…especially the part about describing physical traits and finding images to match the character in your mind.

    I may try that some time.

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