When writing we have numerous factors to think about before we can accurately translate our ideas to paper. Sometimes it can help to itemize things and think independently about each aspect of a scene in order to make everything come together and fit naturally. Few things can take away from a story more than something that seems out of place or factually inaccurate. In this week’s guest blog, author DiAnn Mills discusses her in depth knowledge and experience with doing proper research before you start writing.
Writer Research - Is it Worth the Effort?
Writer Research – Is it Worth the Effort?
By DiAnn Mills
A novelist who explores research, explores life — and life is story. Research allows us to deepen characterization by guiding the character toward crucial decisions. Plot twists with credible and realistic points keep the reader glued to the page. Dialogue and point of view offer unique perspectives about the story line. Setting with an antagonistic edge reinforces story structure. Add emotion and body language with a distinct purpose, and detailed research takes a priority in the writing process.
Writing is a challenge beyond technique. Those tools of the craft can be learned behind a computer screen or sitting in a comfortable chair at a writers’ event. But research means lacing up our boots and stepping into an unfamiliar world.
A writer needs three essentials before scaling a mountain called research:
- A positive attitude.
- A temporary personality change from introvert to extrovert.
- A list of questions that demand answers.
The easy path, and that’s not necessarily bad, is to search the Internet. Accuracy doesn’t take a backseat to any research, so writers verify facts and use trusted sites to eliminate errors.
But the real grit of the process is reaching out to experts. Making phone calls and visiting where our characters work, play, and fear. This is the plus that adds a smile to our reader’s face. Since making a commitment to research, my stories stand solid.
In my latest novel, Deadly Encounter, the first book in the FBI Task Force series, I had to stretch beyond my comfort zone. The storyline involves Houston’s FBI forming a task force with the health department and Laboratory Response Network (LRN) to determine the source of a genetically engineered disease.
My hero is FBI and my heroine is a veterinarian. The best place for me to start was at the beginning:
Veterinarian who volunteers for Houston’s Airport Rangers
Houston Airport Rangers
Houston’s Health Department
Laboratory Response Network (LRN) — which works with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Where my characters live — city, country, neighborhood etc.
Sorta makes a writer tired when our goal is to write an incredibly suspenseful story that foremost entertains the reader.
Some years ago, I forged a relationship with Houston’s FBI, specifically the media coordinator. She expressed the FBI’s goal to enlist community support to keep Houston safe and protected. She’d help me with every novel containing FBI elements to assure accuracy. She’s read each story and offered feedback — even typos. With Deadly Encounter, she and I met for breakfast with the director of domestic terrorism. Oh, the stories I could write simply from this man’s enthusiasm and passion for his job. In short, this treasured friendship has given me story ideas and relationships that will last long after a novel is completed.
Let me digress for a moment. We writers love to talk about what we do, right? Every person I’ve ever interviewed was eager to discuss his/her expertise.
Back to my research for this novel …
In my association with the FBI and being a part of their Citizens Cadet Program, I made great friends with those involved in various careers. One of my new friends works with animals and is a volunteer for Houston’s Airport Rangers. She helped me with veterinarian care and insight into the Airport Rangers. Stacy (yes I named my heroine after her) shared some of her life experiences, and a few of those made it into the book.
George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) Airport Rangers, an equestrian volunteer program, was created to keep the airport safe through community involvement. They are the only group of this kind in the US. The volunteers ride outside the perimeter of the airport in twos and threes. Their role is to report anything unusual or potentially dangerous to law enforcement. I visited their stables, took pics, and simply enjoyed myself. You can read about the group here.
I chatted with the health department about their policies and methods of keeping the people healthy and informed as it pertained to my story.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) required phone calls and e-mails to learn about their involvement in a disease threatening environment. They referred me to the LRN, and that research brought me a third point of view character.
Are you tired yet? Or excited about researching your next novel? As I write this, my mind is whirling with the faces of all those who made the research for Deadly Encounter possible.
My advice is to pull out your note-taking gear and start your research climb. The view at the top is grand.
How do you conduct your novel’s research? Let’s share ideas.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.
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