Monday, September 18, 2006

Book with Trish - Pt 4.

Now that we have the main characters and the setting in place, we need to nail down those little parts of the story that we might not be completely clear on. Which leads us to research... And Google is officially a writers best friend these days...

Not only can we use its images option to search for all the pics we may have needed to help form a mental picture of our hero/heroine and location... But we can also use it to find out about those technical things we may have decided to throw into the mix - those little things that will eventually make us very interesting people to talk to at parties...

So far in my writing career I've had to Google things like the weight of cameras for a news team, how long it takes to train to be an architect, what happens during the varying stages of pregnancy and straight afterwards (as a single gal I didn't know these things, okay??!!), the width and towns and history of a tiny island off the coast of County Kerry and the shift rotas, uniform logos and working procedures of the Dublin City Fire Authority...

And yes I did get all that info through Google. Thing is, I probably now know more on those subjects that I used in the end results, cos once again these are just small details, adding to but not at the forefront of my story. But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Getting something wrong, no matter how small, may prove a distraction for a reader somewhere and I don't want that, now do I? Remember gang, readers are a highly intelligent and eclectic group of people - and what may seem to you like a detail that can be fudged - may in fact prove to be someone somewhere's line of work - and you want to get it right. So, even of you think you know enough on a subject - before you start just be sure. Take a half hour or an hour and do your research... If you can't find it online and it's tough to find the time to delve through books in the library - then find a site somewhere and email with your questions - ask around family and friends - if you say it's research for a book the majority of people are only too happy to answer your queries. And if you're unlucky and they don't want to answer them, then be persistant and ask someone else! It all adds to the overall polish of your story, shows you have taken a professional attitude to it... And it means there's nothing glaringly obvious to distract from your story...

For this book I wanted Shannon to have a 'Tumbletots' type franchise. Now it's worth saying that in the end story I won't be able to use the actual name for copyright reasons (you'll find a lot of company references and song titles and the names of actual famous people are removed from the end result for just this reason) so I will have to make up an imaginary form of this kind of business. But it's still worth doing the research on a real life company of this type to be aware of how it works and what it does... But I can't just leave it there. Even if I don't use the facts and figures I find (because the devil may be in the details but the distract from the story gremlin can also be a tricky little demon) I still need to be aware of things like Health and Safety laws, the ratio required for adults to children, child protection laws, etc. Like I say, I may not use it, or I may just skim over ot by adding a line on the amount of people there, or the soft equipment used, or how the parents work with the children, just to cover those issues. And that way I've covered my bases. It may seem a small detail in the overall greater picture, but it's important. All the more important if you're dealing with a medical condition or an event tied to a piece of actual real-life history...

So, todays exercise is a small one or a big one, depending on what you're using in your story...

It's researching time:

1/ Look at the areas of your story that may require research - Medical conditions/historical facts/companies/amount of time taken to train for a job, etc.

2/ Get as much information as you feel you need to make the subject precise, correct and as real as possible.

3/ Replace real companies/song titles/ references to branded names with either generic terms or names you have made up yourself.

4/ Keep in mind all through your writing that these details should add to the overall story but should not distract from it...

So, I want Shannon's franchise to maybe have a name along the lines of Bouncing Babies, I want her to have parents working with the children (the attraction from Connor's POV would be that it brings people through the doors of his new Gym and Spa which therefore hopefully encourages the membership to increase plus he gets the rental of the rooms... And I may even add a bet with his other brothers about whose Gym can make more money in it's first six months to add to his motivation... cos we know the kids thing isn't going to endear the idea to him any...) I'll keep in mind that if the business takes off for Shannon that she may need more staff - maybe even stealing some of Connor's which can again add to the comedy/conflict between them - but the whole time I will remember to make these references small and within the flow of the greater story so that it doesn't distract the reader too much and become some kind of a business plan manual instead of a love story ;)

So, what will you guys be Googling today???

9 comments:

liz fenwick said...

Lots in answer to your question. You have a really logical way of approaching the research.......unlike my rambling mind! My research will now probably take me close to to Christmas so while you are writing I will be find out the intricacies of ancient Cornish houses!

However I will continue to follow the workshop even though I will bogged down in research :)

Cheers,
Liz

Sue aka MsCreativity said...

Trish, I have to say I'm amazed and not a little awed that you got your info for White Hot from Google. While I was reading it I remember thinking that you must have a brother or friend/relative in the Fire Service for sure. Wow...!

Once again, you've given me the confidence that it is possible to write without the personal experience. A huge relief seeing as I'm not a midwife or an obstetrician!

I'm going to now spend the time researching the info I need for the rest of my book, instead of doing it as I go along. Thanks again for the motivation!

Carol Hutchens said...

Great tips, Trish.
How do you keep your characters in careers that don's sound 'old fashion'?
I read that HR doesn't want the small town feel to their new line...Using large towns or cities, would work, but does that make a story 'global'?
I'm really enjoying this workshop. Thanks so much for taking the time.
Carol

Donna Alward said...

Carol, my word you ask the hard questions! I'm going to leave it for Trish.

And Trish, I'm LOLing about how we're on the same wavelength. I am planning on blogging about research tomorrow. The next ms is probably the most research intensive work I've done.

Trish said...

LOL OH liz!!!! Now I feel *bad*... But at least if you know all the stuff you need to know now it won't break up the flow of your writing later on?! Remember - enough to cover what you need and add some *flavour* to the pot - but not so strong a flavour that it overpowers the taste of the main ingredients... ;)

Sue, yep, all from the internet and watching both Ladder 49 and Rescue Me... I am officially a human sponge...Can remember the strangest things and yet never ever remember where I left car keys/cups of coffee/phone charger.... And *of course* you can do it!!!! If I can, anyone can!

Carol...mmm... *old fashioned*... So far I have used (from the beginning): Park Ranger & Gift Shop Owner/Photographer - Romance Writer & Architect/House 'builder' - Architect(partner of first one) & Interior Designer - Army Helicopter Pilot & PR Agent - TV Producer & Chef - Cameraman & News Reporter - Software Designer & Travel Consultant - Firefighter & Music Distributer - Millionaire Property Developer & Stud Farm Owner - Middle East Bodyguard & Self Help Book Writer - Organic Farmer & Art Valuer....
I'm not actually sure what an old fashioned career or line of work would be... and I do think that almost any profession is do-able so long as the personality of the individual is modern day... It all comes down to the writers voice at the end of the day. As so much does... Though things like active sportspeople/singers/actors can be a tough sell. Mot impossible, cos again its all about voice... But *tougher* than a lot of other professions....

As to the small town locales with the new HR line - not so - two out of three of my sales to the new line are set in very rural settings. There are references to larger Cities certainly, but the bulk of the stories are told on a tiny stud farm in the west of Ireland and an even tinier island off the coast of County Kerry... voice again I'd say...

For me the 'global' reference is more to do with the fact that the stories are set all over the world and yet can still translate to a multitude of readers in different places all over the world - what sells this, I think, is the fact that the crux of the story is the human element - the relationship. This is a universal thing and therefore could be set anywhere at any time and would still be believeable and understandable to the reader... If that makes any sense at all. Leastways that's my take on it...

Glad the workshops are helping gang. They're certainly helping me. And I have this story and another I've thought up today to pitch at my Editor on Wednesday, so fingers crossed... Will post another workshop later on today - but the next one may be later in the week as I fly out tomorrow and am quite hectic til Saturday. Will do my absolute best tho... Promise!!!

Carol Hutchens said...

Thanks, Trish.
That doesn't sound confusing after your explaination.

Carol

Lis said...

Let's see, I need to research a few clubs in LA (something tells me their different from the ones I've researched before in Miami and Vegas); Rodeo Drive, uhm go through some real estate sites to find the houses/loft in the story.

Trish said...

Alright - from Natasha's house I am going to attempt to load the blog post that Blogger wouldn't let me do before I left home... Bear with me gang...

jude d said...

Sorry to post this so late - I'm on catch up with life mode.

I'm googling whisky (for my hero's job), online underwear businesses (tasteful ones you understand not dodgy rubber ones) because my heroine is dabbling in that as a new venture. I've also been googling events companies (the ones that sort out anything from a day in a hot air balloon to a spa pampering by nubile hot men). Hmmm all in the name of research - hallelujah I love writing.