pandora/ipod: “walkin’ in la” by missing persons
So you’ve got an idea for a novel. It’s awesome. It’s original. It’s blowing your mind every time you think about it.
And it’s set in 17th Century China. Or 22nd Century Mars. Or a castle under the Pacific Ocean. Or a monastery in 8th Century Scotland. Or a cafe on a Hell’s Kitchen corner in New York on this very day.
That’s quite a variety. But do you know what they all have in common? Research.
I used to think that research among fiction writers was the domain of the historical writer, or the super specific genre writer like Tom Clancy (who reportedly researched THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER for seven years before writing a word…) Of course, when you actually start to write something, you realize that even the simplest, most basic and familiar of settings requires some form of research.
Example. My first novel O’DONNELL WITH TWO L’S is set in Dublin and Los Angeles. I’ve lived in LA for the better part of the last 17 (holy shit, 17? really? FUCK I’m old) years and I’ve been to Dublin a bunch of times. For both locations I have a pretty decent mental catalogue of restaurants, streets, shops, smells and populous. But as I was writing, I found that I still needed to do research!
Not major, doctoral-style research, the kind that buries your mind in an obsessive cycle of library books, Amazon spending sprees and color-coded notebooks (no, that came later when I decided to write a historical novel…kill me…kill me…) but the basic, everyday life kind of research that we sometimes take for granted:
- What bus would my main character take from Glasnevin to St. Stephen’s Green on a Wednesday afternoon?
- What color is the exterior of the Metro Cafe on South William Street?
- What talent agencies have their offices in Beverly Hills as opposed to Century City?
- What is the name of that little french bistro down by Lantana Studios?
And you know what’s awesome? GOOGLE WILL FIND YOU AN ANSWER!
- Le Petit Bistro
Google, can I marry you, please?
Okay, this is the simplistic version, but the quantity and variety of information available on the Interwebz these days is astounding. Google Maps Street View should be every writer’s best friend, and Wikipedia, though not always 100% accurate, is an excellent “gathering place” for research links and general information on almost any topic. So whether you’re re-envisioning post-War London or building a colony on one of Jupiter’s moons, research will be a part of your writer’s life.
Which will be very helpful for you later when you have to start querying the bugger. But never fear, we’ll get to that in Chapter 4.
Next week? CHAPTER THREE: THE EDITING
*cue horror music….now*