Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why You Should Go on a Research Trip

Research. I know. Boring, right? And if you're a fiction writer, who needs it? We all know story is king, so why bother with dull, dry, boring facts?

Because you’ve got to be credible, or you will hear about it from readers.

Other than holing up in some forgotten backroom of a library with stacks of research books, how are you going to find the information you need? A research trip, and here's why . . .

4 Reasons to Go on a Research Trip

1. Expansion
Visiting an area where you’ve set your story has a way of giving you even more ideas to add to your story. While researching for The Captive Heart, I toodled down to South Carolina to tromp around the same trails my characters would've used near an old Cherokee village. I wanted to immerse myself in the feel of the area so I could write it more realistically. But I had no idea that reality would include spiders the size of Detroit. Seriously, I walked into a web and a hairy monster came right at my face. The thing seriously should’ve been registered with the DOT, and I’m pretty sure his license tabs were expired. Yes, it was that big. Now the takeaway value on this isn’t that I’m a freak about mutant killer spiders (though I am). It’s that research trips add value to whatever story you’re writing because you’ll discover things you didn’t expect. I wouldn’t have dreamed of putting such a creepy creature into my plot. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind because most of the time I’m trying NOT to think about spiders. But after discovering how abundant these things are, I expanded my story to include them. You never know what you’re going to find—and that’s the point. You can’t know unless you go.

2. Education
There are some things you’re just not going to find in an encyclopedia (does anyone even read those things anymore?) or even on the internet. Case in point, an interesting little—and I do mean little—museum I visited last time I romped around England. I don’t even like science, but I sure loved visiting the Museum of Victorian Science. It’s basically just a little shed that’s been added on to a house—and the house is way out in a tiny village in Northern England. Tony is the old man who runs it. So, what could I have possibly learned from an old man in a shed out in the middle of nowhere? Turns out Tony was not only a chemist but also a physics professor—and quite a good teacher at that. I learned about xrays, ion engines, geisler tubes, and loads about historical figures such as Marconi. The thing is that most people haven’t written research books, and you won’t find them on the internet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn amazing things when networking with people who you wouldn’t normally meet.

3. Experience
This is the big daddy of them all, and I think one of the most important reasons to go on a research trip . . . the experience. Sure you can read about places and things, but until you’ve immersed all your senses in a place, you’ll never know how it feels. And if you don’t know, how on earth will your reader know? A research trip definitely tweaks all five senses in ways you cannot predict.

4. Expense Write Off
And last but certainly not least, one of the best reasons to go on a research trip is it’s a tax write off. Save your receipts. Stick it to the man because Lord knows Uncle Sam’s going to stick it to you. You can write off everything on a research trip – except for your travel partner. They’ll have to pay their own way.

If at all possible, it's worth it to visit an area you're writing about. My next trip is coming up this summer when I'll be skedaddling around upstate New York, researching the French & Indian War. I wonder what kind of creepy bugs I'll find this time?


chappydebbie said...

The Captive Heart is proof that Research Road Trips pay off. It's fantastic!

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