Research, beautiful research

Those of you who know me, know that I’m not a researcher – in fact, if anything, I’m what I would call an anti-researcher. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t KNOW things, because I do. As an avid reader of novels and non-fiction, of newspapers and magazines, as an avid watcher of movies and documentaries and news programs, I know a whole lot of things. But what I don’t do is say “okay, I’m going to write about X” and then research it. That would ruin my process, ruin my writing. It would make me a different writer – and not a better one.

But what I do is write about something that’s obviously – or not so obviously – been percolating in my mind for a long time. And because of what I write – about relationships, about people, about life – I’m not so worried about getting the details exactly right although those details might have been buried somewhere in my head for a long time. I’m more careful to get the feelings right because that’s what important in the type of story I write. Whether those feelings are sorrow or joy or passion, that’s what I focus on.

But I do, occasionally, do research – but it’s the kind of research I refer to as spot research. What does that mean? It means I might need to know the name of a street (though usually I make them up), the type of car (although, now that I think about it, I never need to know this because I love cars and know them pretty well), or the correct spelling of name or a particular date. It’s the kind of research that I can do it a quick internet search – and when I say quick, I mean less than two minutes.

But for the book I’m working on now, I’d have to say that I’ve done a little more than that. Though, again, I’ve done that little more because it’s an excuse to go to one of my favorite places – Granville Island Market – and an excuse to spend time doing something I love – browsing the market. And, of course, doing a little shopping along the way. Because, honestly, I know all the things I need to know about this character and her life and her work – all this research is just an excuse.

Because this book is about things I already know really well – the restaurant business and the effect of the recession on small businesses. One of my characters is a florist. I’ve given her a shop in the Market, and she’s preparing some centerpieces and arrangements and plants for a restaurant. And one of the characters owns a restaurant – not something I need to do any research on as I have many friends who work in restaurants, I eat out all the time, and have friends who manage or own restaurants. It’s part of the conversation of my life.

That’s the way my writing works – I write about things I know or things I can make up. Any research I do has ALWAYS been done (without knowing I’m doing it) long before I sit down to write about it.

Every writer works in a different way – this is what works for me.


3 responses to “Research, beautiful research

  1. raymondbolton

    Still, having that odd image in the front of one’s mind—not hydrangeas or orchids, but fox face gourds–can add that unexpected detail that lends reality.

  2. I guess I am the eccentric researcher, I’m all over the place. Sometimes like you I depend on memory and imagination. At other times I have to immerse myself in the subject–I think this is where I usually say, “If it works, go for it! Just be you, you can’t be anyone else.

    That’s why we all love you, Kate!

  3. How I wish I didn’t write historicals and could “shop” as research. But, when you write about a time you never lived, research is important. I do love it though and since I do have a degree to teach American History, I try to stick with my favorite time periods.

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