Research is very much on my mind as I have two research trips planned in April in connection with The New Book. I really want to begin The New Book, not because I’m not enjoying doing the copy edits for All That Mullarkey or the revisions for Want to Know a Secret? But because I always want to start a new book. I could be the world’s most prolific new book beginner – it’s writing the middle and the end that takes a bit more out of me.
So – research. Research can be easy – in fact, it’s worrying that I can learn, via the Internet, how to euthanize, make bombs or synthesize drugs. Not that I want to but I could, if I did. The Internet has revolutionised research for writers and saved us enormous chunks of time. It’s worth remembering to validate and corroborate anything you get from The Net, though, as anybody can put anything up on there. Although there have been cases of a mistake being perpetuated as articles are used for research, for the most part you’re reasonably safe if you can find similar information on several sites. And the more reputable the site you use ie information from a university or professional body, the more likely the information is to be sound. Your research should permeate your story but not swamp it.
If you have anything in your story about the police – and you’re not as lucky as I am in living next door to a detective superintendent – there are books written for writers concerning forensics, police procedures or science and these can be easily obtained from bookshops, either High Street or on-line. Crime writers use them a lot!
Occupations are something many of us have to research and can be a good starting point for a story – I once asked a class to research an unusual occupation, give it to a character and write a story about them. We had some great stories! My favourite was about a mortician’s beautician who had to prepare her best friend’s body for burial.
One of my April research trips is centred around an occupation – I’m going to meet Steven Hooper, male model. It’s a hard life, isn’t it?
Steven has kindly agreed to chat with me about his work as a model and an actor – he was on Coronation Street a week or so back.
Or maybe poor Steven didn’t get a chance to say no to me. But I’m really grateful and keen to learn as much as possible.
When you have research to do it can seem pretty daunting to find somebody who works in the area you want to write about but, in almost all cases, I’ve found that people, like Steven, are very helpful.
Especially if you know their mum.
And even if you don’t, just ask. They don’t normally say no. (Except helicopter pilots – they seem to be able to say no really easily, once they realise that you want to know how to crash. See Want to Know a Secret? for the result.)