Research Suggestion For Writers To Better Their Story

Research is an important tool for writers. Whether you are writing a western or a police procedural story, for example, you want details to be accurate. But there is another type of research that is just as important.

You want your characters to be real, ones readers can identify with. They have a type of personality, they have motivations,  they have strengths and insecurities. So in creating a character there is also research involved. Let me give an example.

I am writing a murder mystery. The victim is a young woman. We know nothing about her. She is fished out of a canal on the first page. During the course of the novel we learn about her and not just facts, more about who she is behind the facts.

I need to research the type of woman I want her to be. So I look at a book entitled Women Who Run With the Wolves.  The book contains myths and stories of the wild woman archetype. I focus on four chapters. One contains mythical stories about women as naïve prey. Another chapter is Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter. The point is to learn about the mythical and psychological aspects of who this woman is, to give flesh and blood to her.

I am also reading Love and Limerence which is providing some great insight into men and women, about what love is and what it might not be.

I am also checking through Games People Play by Dr. Eric Byrne, about the psychological games we play-and there are many. This will help when her friends talk about her, telling specific stories indicating something of her character, her nature.

There are many books to chose from, not just books like The Meaning of Persons or Please Understand Mebut books on mythology from countries around the world.

The more research you do about the psychology of people, of archetypes, of mythology, the more you see who your character is going to become. The character will be real, will be someone readers can understand. All because of research.

Of course, since my story takes place in 1928, I need to research fashion, automobiles, all the little details, something of the times, making sure nobody watch’s TV or uses a cellphone. Writers always take the time to get those things correct, but we should never take for granted the characters to be created. Not how to create them.


Creating a character through dialogue

There are many ways of creating characters in fiction. What they wear says a lot about a person, colorful clothes, drab clothes, formal, casual, rich, poor. Character quirks also work. Maybe they walk funny, maybe they limp, walk quickly, or just amble. Describing their apartment or house furnishings can also indicate what type of person they might be; orderly to the point of being a neat freak, or messy to the point of a hoarder. Or sparse with no personality.

But another way is through dialogue. In my e-mystery in progress a 1927 flapper named Clancy reveals a lot about herself in the following scene.

Grover looked at Clancy like a thirsty man in a dessert who just found a well of water in an oasis. He was actually drooling a bit. “Are you married? I’m not. Do you want to go on a picnic with me?”

Clancy said, “Well Grover, November is not a good month for a picnic. Way too cold for this California flapper. But I must tell you dear Grover I am not the marrying kind. Nothing personal, mind you.  I have heard people say you are selfish if you do not marry, but that makes no sense. It is selfish to spend your entire life making one man happy and far more generous to share yourself with as many men as possible, or in your case, women, of course. Why make one man happy when you can make dozens of men happy? So you see marrying one person to spend your life with is just selfish. And I am nothing if not generous.”

“But that is not nice, having lots of men and all. Women in the bible are called harlots. We have whores in this town, not many; at least I don’t think so. I don’t want to know them.”

“Well Mr. Grover I am neither of those types of women. I have some integrity after all. But there is another reason. Marriage is a contract, therefore you are obligated to love your husband, but being single I am free to love the man-forever if I want to-because I have the freedom to do so, not under an obligation you see. Don’t you think that makes sense to you Mr. Grover; that a person should love out of freedom, not out of obligation?”

We learn more than Clancy’s feelings on marriage. We see she is insouciant, a free thinker, not shy, a bit flippant, probably living in the moment and a bit of a challenge for any male suitor. Good luck winning her heart.

In “Loonies in Hollywood” in which she made her first appearance I wrote a scene to describe how she affected men. The scene follows:

Clancy swiftly glided past police desks with me as her tail, detectives and uniformed men stopping what they were doing, staring at her like a silver screen goddess who came down off the screen to mingle with the normal folk. She was accustomed to this type of reaction, not pausing in her sashaying glide through the station, looking neither left nor right to offer a brief heart melting smile.

From the reaction of men we learn she is attractive. Doesn’t matter about hair color, tall or short, nothing descriptive, all reaction from others. She is unattainable to the common man.

You can say a lot about character though dialogue and other’s observations.

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