Field Trips—the Best Kind of Research
by Chris Marie Green
We spend a lot of time “traveling” via our chairs and, to do research, we don’t even have to hop in the car and putter down to the library anymore! We are armchair research warriors who can look up anything with a keyboard click.
It’s so very easy to stick to armchair research, so why would we bother to get out to experience some of our travels firsthand? Who has the time or energy when we’re writing five or six (or more!) books per year?
Consider these reasons to dash off into the “real world” for some research:
* Build your fantastic “unreal” world brick by realistic brick.
I’m not saying that cyber or book research is second best, but there’s just something about experiencing a…well, experience firsthand. Several years ago, when I was researching a trilogy arc for my Vampire Babylon series, I traveled to England. I was writing about mean vampire schoolgirls, and I wanted to feel what it was like to be in a cloud-cloaked, gothic school with them, so I arranged a tour with Kingswood School in Bath. They were kind enough to pair me with a female student as my guide, and the information—and more importantly, the vibe—I got from this experience was invaluable in character creation and atmosphere. I also blocked out an action scene in Highgate Cemetery. Writing these books was fun, because I had been a part of them, and I was able to ground my urban fantasy world in something very real.
* Fill that well, baby.
How many times have you stared at a blank page waiting for that story to come? Why not take that so-far-useless day and go someplace local you’ve always wanted to see? Since your mind is already tuned in to your story, chances are that everything you’re receiving will grow and stretch into an idea. Also, you’re giving yourself permission to relax; your mind isn’t so stressed, and your subconscious will come out to play.
And on a similar note…
* Inspiration is the mother of our creations.
Say you’re looking for some characters to populate a future story, and you’ve just about tapped out your usual list of real people who inspire those quirky secondaries or heroic leads. Get out and experience a meet up! Maybe you’ll go on a hike with a military veteran who can give you insight about weaponry. Maybe you’ll go on a wine tasting tour with a foodie who can provide that hobby you’ve been searching for to flesh out a sidekick.
* Just because it’s on the Internet, that doesn’t make it true.
When we “just had books” to rely on, we could depend on the notion that the contents had been verified and edited, but blogs and other websites we read today aren’t necessarily vetted. There are a lot of opinion pieces out there that can be mistaken for “the real thing.” Experiencing our own research takes care of this issue, unless you take great effort to verify what you read on the nets.
So happy trails…or trials…to you all!
Chris Marie Green is the author of the Vampire Babylon series, (which includes the spin-off Lilly Meratoliage urban fantasy romance series), the Final Girls Books, and the Jensen Murphy: Ghost for Hire series. She also wrote THE SHE CODE, a New Adult Single Girl (AKA Geek Lit) novel with artwork by Billy Martinez of Neko Press Comics. She also writes romance as RITA-nominated Crystal Green. Connect with her: