Monday, June 20, 2016

Robin Gianna & Research Your Way to a More Believable Book

Please welcome Robin Gianna back to the blog today!
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RESEARCH YOUR WAY TO A MORE BELIEVABLE BOOK

Research is one of those things some writers love and others hate, but no matter which camp you belong to, most stories require at least a little information-gathering. The trick to research is to learn enough to enrich your story with believable detail, but not to spend so much time on it that you never get the book written, or even started!  

Give yourself a set period of time for the first sweep of research.

Avoiding the pitfall of researching in place of writing is fairly easy. Give yourself a set period of time, maybe a week, to get important research done.  Information about your setting, for example, or details about your characters’ professions, or the time period you’ve set the story in.  After a week, get going on the book.  When you’re writing and come to a place in the story where you realize you need to look something up, don’t stop to do it!  Instead, put a bracket there and keep going.  When you’ve hit your word count goal, put on your research hat again, search for the brackets in the manuscript, then spend time finding out all you need to know for those particular scenes.

The Internet

Where and how to research will depend a bit on what you’re writing, but the easiest place to get started in on the Internet. The Web is, of course, an amazing resource, making our lives as writers so much easier than it used to be.  What’s the average temperature in Italy in April?  What do Parisians usually eat for breakfast?  What do houses in Guatemala look like?  Ask most any question, and you can find an answer.  

The library

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still stop into the library when I’m starting a book. While there are plenty of images to be found online, I love having a book with photos of where I’m setting my story, filled with information that often is easier to look through than surfing dozens of Internet sites.  I’ve also had a few occasions where I was able to find a memoir or biography that enriched my story in ways I couldn’t have foreseen.

Talk to people who know

But nothing beats talking to people who are experts on whatever you’re researching.  For my medical romances, I talk to family, friends, and acquaintances in the medical field for ideas, details, and sometimes even dialogue so I’ll know how characters would really talk in a trauma situation, for example, or in the OR.  I hear you saying, “Well, that’s nice for you, Robin, because you know people in the field, but I don’t know any police officers to interview for my suspense story.”  In my experience, people enjoy talking about their work and what they do, or what it was like growing up in New York City, or their work travels to foreign countries.  I’ll bet you know people who’ve had interesting experiences that might trigger a story idea.  And if for your current WIP you need to learn about police procedure or what the life of an EMT is like or what an archaeologist does on a dig, a phone call will likely get you invited to the police station or firehouse or university to talk to one or more people about it all.  I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Research your way to new ideas

And that brings me to my last, but more important, point about research! Often, we don’t even know what we need to know for a story until we talk with people who have a deep understanding of what we want to learn, or study a book on the subject in-depth. A number of times, research has given me insight I would never have found on my own, and which gave me a new scene or even sent my story in a direction I hadn’t planned on. Sometimes that happens through Internet research, but it occurs more often when I’m talking one-to-one with someone. And those scenes and new directions always have enriched my stories for the better. For this reason, I believe writers should research more deeply than we think we need to, even if we only use 20% of what we learn in the actual book. Knowing a lot about a setting or time period or career gives us a deep understanding of the world our characters live in, which shines through when we’re writing from their perspective. It’s one of the things that brings a character to life for the reader, which is so important.

So remember—research isn’t just about those little details like average temperatures or popular foods in Venezuela or trendy places to live in San Francisco. Digging deep will truly inspire new ideas and directions that will make your characters more believable, your story stronger, and maybe even make it easier to writer.  And isn’t that always a great thing?

How about you?  How do you go about researching your stories?  Any interesting things that have happened to you along the way that brought a book to life?  I’d love to hear about it.

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Robin Gianna on the web:

Website             Facebook         Twitter



His Cinderella midwife 

Gabriella Cain prides herself on the exemplary service she provides to her celebrity moms-to-be. So she certainly doesn't appreciate Dr. Rafael Moreno suddenly taking over her department…even if he is royalty—and gorgeous! 

But distrust soon turns to secrets shared as irresistible Rafe proves dangerously easy to fall for. With a painful past behind her, can Gabriella dare hope for a fairy-tale ending with her prince?


Buy Links:

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One Kindle Copy Giveaway of The Prince and the Midwife to one commenter!       

Enter this Goodreads Giveaway to win a signed copy of The Prince and the Midwife.

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Thanks Robin!
It sure is easy to disappear into a research cave - love the idea of setting a timeline to avoid staying there too long.

Anyone have interesting research stories? I know I've found out more about branding cattle than I ever thought I'd know! 

41 comments:

  1. I spent the most time researching for my last book, and most of that was online. I agree talking to those who know is important. I spoke with fighter pilots before starting my series to be sure I had the nuances of flight right.

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    1. That's interesting, Alex! I'm curious how you got in touch with fighter pilots - do you have a local Air Force base, or did you do it through email or what? Thanks for stopping in!

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    2. I have the same question! So cool :)

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  2. Good advice, Robin, though I will often interrupt my writing to look something up. I'm pretty good, however, at not letting it get out of control.

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    1. Interrupting your writing to look something up isn't always a bad thing, especially if the info you get helps you get the book written! In my case, though, I'm awful about letting myself get way too sidetracked, and with deadlines that's never a good thing. Thanks for your comment!

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    2. For me, it depends on how deep the research rabbit hole is! :)

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  3. Good tips here and I agree about the helpfulness of primary sources (although it can be tough to pick up the phone and make those calls!) Jemi, too funny about the branding of cattle!

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    1. I do understand that making those calls can be tough for introverted writers, Elizabeth! I used to sell advertising air time on TV and radio, so it comes easily to me, I admit. But making ourselves do uncomfortable things brings a sense of pride after we do it anyway, doesn't it? And we end up with a better book, too! :-)

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    2. Taking that step to go to primary sources is tough - but the pay off is huge!

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  4. Great tips on researching, especially to talk to people who are experts. Congrats on your book, Robin!

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  5. Great tips, especially about limiting time spent researching.

    I found Google Earth to be very helpful.

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    1. I appreciate your suggestion about Google Earth, Diane! While I'm familiar with it (and I know my high school son uses it a lot) I really haven't gone there much. Will definitely do that! Today even, as I have more research to do on my current WIP set in Italy...due in 10 days...EEP! :-)

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    2. I'm not very good with Google Earth yet either - makes me kind of sea sick! :P

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  6. I love finding a live resource, too. It's great to talk to someone with direct experience that you want information about.

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    1. It definitely is! I've found that talking with someone always brings me information I wouldn't haven't thought to ask about. Thanks for your comment!

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    2. There's nothing quite like talking to someone with experience :)

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  7. I don't think I have any interesting research stories - but it's always challenging to find a balance. It can be easy to fall into the research and let it take over from the writing.
    Great interview - thanks!

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    1. It definitely can take over, Beth - you're absolutely right about finding that balance. Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. I've disappeared into a few research whirlpools myself! :)

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  8. Great tips on research, Robin. Without that research a story can fall flat. A good balance makes a reader want more (always a good thing).

    Hi, Jemi.

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    1. Thanks, Mason! So glad you stopped by :-)

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    2. So true! It often is all in the details :)

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  9. I agree wholeheartedly that talking to people about their area of expertise is one of the very best ways to research! And I must try setting a schedule for research, because I often get carried away on research rabbit trails when I need to be drafting.

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    1. It's all too easy to let that happen, Laurel! (By the way, I love your name - I used it for my heroine in Her Greek Doctor's Proposal because it was set in Delphi) Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Awesome tips on research. Congratulations on the new release!

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  11. I actually do pause and fact check or research while writing. Then again, I've done the placeholder too. It really boils down to what works for you in my opinion.

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    1. True! And, for me, it changes depending on how deep into the draft I am

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  12. Gianna's book looks great. I do mainly online research. If I have to go deeper, I'll talk to someone or go to the library.

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    1. Sounds very close to my style, too, Medeia!

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  13. Hi Jemi! Hi Robin! Through research I've learned so much. It's a favourite part of writing a story to me. I like to write about what I'd like to know, not what I already know. :-)

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  14. I agree that talking to those primary sources uncover nuggets and feelings that don't poke through other research.

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    1. it's amazing what you can discover in a conversation! :)

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  15. Best research is through talking to people...especially old people. Imagine the life experiences they hold.

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