Walking the Ground: Tips For Researching Your Next Novel
Research. The word alone is like a strike of lightning for some writers, already dreaming of stone-faced castles in the Highlands or a handsome Scotsman riding through the glen (hello, Jamie Fraser). For these literary souls, the research phase deepens their storytelling.
For others, the thought of fifty-seven open tabs on their browser is already too much to bear. Forget about trying to unearth which type of undergarments were typically worn by women in the early 1800s (a chemise, by the way).
Let’s face it, research, as daydream inducing as it can be, has the tendency to slow our writing. Worst of all, it can steal the joy right out of our story, especially if you’ve ever scoured census records at two in the morning like me. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Whether you’re writing historical fiction, a YA contemporary novel, or anything in between, these three tips can help take your research from strenuous to exciting, all while enhancing your storytelling.
Walking the Ground
There is no better way to research a place than following in the footsteps of your characters. To immerse yourself in the atmosphere of a city, to truly see the towering height of the buildings or the narrow confines of a crypt, or simply understand the true distance from one place to another. If it’s feasible for you, visiting the setting of your novel is the most inspiring form of research and adds an unparalleled sense of life and accuracy to the page.
For those of us who don’t have the funds of a Kardashian, we at least have the glory that is YouTube. If writing confined to my house during the pandemic taught me anything, it’s that there are incredible virtual tours of just about anywhere you can imagine. Tower of London? Check. Taj Mahal? You’ve got it. The Paris Catacombs? Come on, you already know.
For Hair and Fashion
One of the most maddening parts of research for me while writing historical fiction was staying accurate to hair and fashion trends of the mid-1600s. Trust me, there are a lot of layers to get wrong if you aren’t careful! My favorite research find of all time is the “Getting Dressed in…” series of videos created by Crow’s Eye Productions, an all female team of filmmakers. They have other binge-worthy videos that show hair and make-up tutorials as well as idyllic walks through different time periods.
What are you waiting for? Get ready to fall down the rabbit hole, fall through time, and fall in love with research again. No census records or tedious Wikipedia searches required.