Monday, December 07, 2009

Stuff from a writer...


What is that?
It's a necessity and something a writer does to better understand a particular thing. One of your goals is to write a story that puts the reader right there alongside your hero and heroine. To do that, you need to know about whatever it is you're writing about from all angles.

How long does it take?
Don't be stingy, take as long as is necessary.

Where do I go, the library?
Absolutely! You can go to your local library and troll through the shelves, or go with a list of specific books. You can also do research online, by asking questions or conducting interviews of people who would know, or experience it for yourself.

I'm writing fiction, doesn't that mean it's all made up?
Hmmm, to a certain extent, yes, you are making the plot and characters up. However, if there is anything or anyplace that is real, say like New York City, then it must be handled correctly. If you don't and it slips by your editor as well, then you can be sure a reader will call you out on it. And they should, because you pulled them out of the story by not doing your research.

Let me give you an example of using research from a variety of sources. A friend of mine recommended I visit a particular cafe while in Paris. I found it detailed in my travel guide and checked out the map to see if there was anything around it I might want to see. All this was in preparation for a trip, not a research session.

Okay, there's the back story, and in reality, it led to Taming Marie Antoinette. One of the scenes that pulled it all together was when the heroine goes to a cafe to do some work and eat a late lunch:

Liana entered the historic sweet shop Ladurée and sighed, feeling lighter in spirit already. She loved this place with a passion, its marble black and white checkerboard floor, with dark wood and glass cases full of sugared treats. This was a place she could see herself living in if given the choice. Off to the right, behind a screen and a few tall plants was an ornate and intimate dining room full of mirrors, gilding and cherubs on the ceiling. When her turn came, she requested a seat for one and told the woman she’d be eating lunch as well.

Settling into one of the bench seats backed up against the wall, she set the menu down and looked around the room. There was a wonderful mix of people. Lovers, friends, business meetings and even a few tourists, almost filled the space. The seat across the table from her was empty, which suited her. She pulled out her notebook and a couple of colored pencils from her coat pocket.

A few moments later the waitress, wearing a white apron, came up and took her order.

Bonjour. Bonjour. Etes-vous prêt?

Oui, s'il vous plaît, une omelette sans les champignons ou les tomates, une cruche d'eau et un pot de chocolat chaud.” She always ordered a pot of hot chocolate whenever she was here but rarely an omelet. Although they were good, there was no way she’d eat anything with a mushroom and tomato within sniffing distance but today she wanted the fluffy egg item so asked for one without the offending items.


She didn’t have to wait long after ordering. The jug of water and pot of chocolate came before the omelet. She poured a small glass of water and took a sip, before moving on to the good stuff. She enjoyed watching the thick molten chocolate silently slip into her delicate cup. Picking up the hot pink and gold china, her eyes automatically shut as she inhaled the delicious aroma. Moving the rim to rest on her lower lip, Liana tilted the cup and poured a small amount of warm decadence to hold in her mouth before swallowing.


“Excuse me, mademoiselle.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry.”

Est-ce que ça vous ennuierait partageant votre table avec un autre?

Startled, she’d been so lost in the chocolate she hadn’t noticed the young woman standing close to the side of her table asking if she’d be comfortable with having another person share her table.

Oui, oui, of course.”

It was common to have to share a table in the small space. Coming after the lunch crowd was because she preferred not to, but would never think to put the staff out by saying no. Moving her notebook and pencils to the bench beside her, she shifted her beverage paraphernalia closer, making sure there was space available for the other person.

Out of her peripheral vision, she saw a large presence in a dark suit sit in the chair opposite, but didn’t look up. She hadn’t come here for idle repartee.

“Thank you for making room for me.”

The familiar deep, sexy growl brought gooseflesh racing up her arms. Immediately her eyes flicked up to meet sharp green orbs with soft brown flecks. Were they the same ones she’d seen surrounded by a black half mask? Quickly she took in his hair, general physique, and gasped in surprise.

Oui, we meet again, Liana.”

Her heart started racing. She was sharing her table with one of the twins from the Depravity Dance.
Copyright © 2007, 2008 Tilly Greene

Did all that happen during my visit to the cafe? Nope, but I imagine you can pick out what did. The decor, the food [and yes the hot chocolate was divine], the type of people who were there, and then poetic license took over. So, my advice in regards to doing research is simple:

Do the research, do it well and in depth. Take notes and pictures to refer back to. Then, when it comes to writing, the details will flow along with the words.

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