Thursday, April 19, 2007

Research: Can it be fun?

Hi everybody! I’m so excited to be included on this blog, in the company of such amazing authors. Since this is my first post, I wanted to very briefly introduce myself. My name is Wendy Toliver, and my first Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, is coming out this December.

In the meantime, I’m busy working on a new book, and I’ve run into a few things I need to research.

Research. The word conjures up all sorts of images, and most of them are unpleasant. Sitting in a dusty library surrounded by walls of books, cooped up in your room surfing the Internet and hoping what you find is factual and not someone’s prank to the world, making phone calls to other parts of the country when you’d rather be chatting with your BFF.

So I do everything in my power to make my research actually fun. For example, if a character is going to do something I’ve never done before, I try it out. In one of my books, a character of mine takes snowboarding lessons. So, just to make sure everything was totally legit, I learned how to snowboard. Another fun way to research is to go somewhere, like on a vacation. Many authors do this to get the right feeling of a place they recreate in their books. One of my stories takes place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I’ve been there a million times, but once I started writing about it, it was amazing how many details started popping out at me. Another way I make research fun is talking to people in the know. This came in very handy with The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren when I needed my neighbor who’s a nurse to help me realistically create a hospital-based scene.

And what about watching TV, movies, or reading novels for research? That’s not so terrible, now is it?

So my question for you today is this: What do you do to make research ( for a book, a school report, an article, etc.) fun? Have you ever learned something that has contributed to the project you’re researching AND something else in your life?


Jennifer Echols said...

My brother is an emergency room physician, so I can always call him for a convo about characters getting hurt and the aftermath. The great thing about this is that he's a huge reader, and I think he understands why I need to ask him wild questions. So he never bats an eyelash--he just tells me what I need to know and even helps me brainstorm.

Micol Ostow said...

Welcome Wendy!
I find that the internet is a great tool for research. I once had to work on a forensics-y, Alias-type project and I spent hours reading gruesome articles about serial killer psychology. Now I'm sort of convinced that I'm on some government list somewhere or something....

I got VERY lucky when writing both EMILY GOLDBERG and GETTIN' LUCKY (ha!). They take place in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas, respectively, both places I had been in the past, but not for quite some time. Randomly and somewhat unrelatedly, I ended up going to both within the final stages of the first draft of each manuscript. Whee!

Wendy Toliver said...

Jennifer -- how cool to have a brother who's a doctor. I bet it's not only convenient for research but for figuring out whether or not you need to hightail it to the hospital for various ailments.

Micol - thanks for the welcome. Great to be here. And I hope the feds aren't watching your every internet move! :)