Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ask us: Conference Edition

While the Playfriends attend the RWA National Conference, we're answering your questions about life, writing, and everything else on the blog. Comments are open and there are prizes to be won!

Avi asks: How much time do you spend doing research after you have come up with a plot. Does location play a big part of that research?

PC: Since I'm a pantser, I tend to research on the fly. Usually right after I've written myself into a corner. :-) Location is important, and I do research that up front, because I need to have a feel for where my characters are. I can't really say how much time I spend on research, simply because I'm usually in a panic, trying to figure something out so I can write myself out of the corner!

PM: My book is set in Atlanta, and while I was familiar with the overall layout and flavor of the city, I needed help with some of the details. My nephew attended Georgia Tech and my sister became very familiar with Atlanta during his four years there. Additionally she has to go to Atlanta on business at least once a year. So, she and I took one of our infamous girl's trips to Atlanta last December and scoped out all the places I used in the book. We stayed at the Georgian Terrace Hotel where my hero and heroine had their honeymoon, looked up the house in the Virginia Highland area of town that I'd patterned my heroine's house after and visited the Biltmore Hotel where I set a charity ball scene. After those three days of living in the setting of my book, it really came alive for me. Now let's see... wonder if I can set the next one in Paris?

SP: I am a plotter, but there are only certain elements that I research in advance. I'm not big on tons of research, which is why I could never write a historical. Usually I look up things as I go along, but I try to keep my book fairly general if I feel I'm treading into an area that I could really mess up with too many details. Currently, the book I'm working on involves a poker tournament. Before I started writing, I had to get a general idea of how they're run, the basics of the game, and how anyone could manage to cheat. Aside from that, I set a fictional hotel in a fictional location on the strip (smack dab on top of the Tropicana, actually, but I only know that because I lived there) and only add the specifics I need to make the story ring authentic to readers but not bore them with the mechanics of the game.

In terms of location, I tend to set the stories in places that have the right 'feel' for the story. I throw in seasonally appropriate details and landmarks that I look up online, but I'm not really one to make the location one of the characters. Its important where they are and how it impacts the story, but I don't use it that heavily. I do, however, let the location help me build characters, like proper southern ladies and laid back beach dwellers.

Insti: The short answer is that it depends on the book. I do as much research as I need to. Some require more - like Afterburn. I was dealing with a setting and occupations I didn't know, not to mention the military. I often don't realize I need a piece of information until I get into the writing but I don't want to interrupt the creative flow so I tend to write myself notes. My first draft is dotted with red text reminding me that I need to google this or that.

Location can play a huge part in the book. I do tend to try and stay with places that I either know or with making up locations that I use. Every place has it's own quirks and it's hard to capture those if you've never been there (or don't know anyone who has).

Angel: Since I write contemporary, a large part of my research is simply location. I make up most city or small town names, just to give myself some leeway, but I definitely check out the region. Especially pictures! I'm a visual person, so I love to google pictures and find houses and landscapes that give me a feel for the area. Otherwise, I just make notes in the manuscript about things I need to look up later, and do so.

Avi, please email us to claim your prize.

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