Ideas: What do I do with them after I have them? Research!

Yesterday I talked about where my ideas for stories come from. Today I’d like to talk about what I do with them after I have them. I have a yellow legal pad on my desk that is scrawled with notes about story ideas. I have another I carry in my bag along with my critique materials. If I’m out and have an idea, I drag out the pad and scribble it down. I make notes about what I want to research on the subject and sketch out characters and their possible traits.

In my pile of filled yellow pads I have research info on the many subjects I studied while writing The Legend of the Swamp Witch anf The Ruby Queen. I researched locations where the stories take place. I like to include actual locations and events around the area that existed during the time of my story to add a sense of reality. I like my characters to eat or drink in actual establishments in the towns or stay in hotels.

In both books, I used railroads for travel. I’m now quite familiar with railway systems in the US during the 19th Century. What a business! Small rail companies existed in every state. Some only traveled between a couple of towns! In the west there were even two different types of railways. The regular gauge for flat land travel and narrow gauge for trains traveling through the mountains. Oh my! Once the Transcontinental system was established, many of these small systems were bought up by the bigger companies and is why we see long strings of letters on the sides of railcars today. ATSF/ BNSF etc. I have pages and pages of this!

Luckily, I enjoy doing the research. At my critique group recently, a woman asked how I managed to have so many interesting tidbits about clothing, furnishings, and food. One of my fellow writers told her, “Lori has done tons of research.” It made me feel good to know people had been paying attention. I can always answer a question if someone asks about a certain item of clothing, phrase of dialogue, or location in my work.Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

I write fiction, but it’s Historical Fiction and I believe the history is relevant. My heroine in 1870 Dodge City wouldn’t be wearing a polyester pantsuit to dinner at McDonalds, but she could be wearing a cotton dress with an aproned bustle for dinner at the B&K. She wouldn’t be hopping on an Amtrak to Denver, but she would be taking the Kansas Pacific.

The research is important to my genre and I respect that. Science Fiction writers include detailed scientific facts and it adds to the feel of the story. Science Fiction without science wouldn’t hold the interest of the Science Fiction reader. Historical Fiction without history is the same, in my humble opinion.

In a nutshell, that is the beginnings of what I do with an idea after I have it. I research the time and place I want the story set in. While doing the research I always find interesting things and people to enrich the story and sometimes find facts that take the story in directions I hadn’t at first thought of.

Tomorrow I’ll write a bit about my process after the research is done and my story has jelled a bit.

Until tomorrow: Write on!

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