A Word About Research

researchCiao, amici! I should be writing, but I  took a break after I got sucked down the world’s largest rabbit hole.

Research.

I don’t mind doing it. In fact, it’s probably kind of a sickness, but I actually enjoy it.

Most of the time.

Not so much when what I need isn’t available anywhere.

Queue the one resource I think we all tend to forget. PEOPLE. I’m pretty lucky. So far, I haven’t found a topic that I couldn’t conquer with a quick search on the web or a call to family and friends.

MILITARY QUESTIONS
I have several veterans in my family as well as a few who are active duty. And I have quite a few friends who serve. (It pays to have lived near WPAFB. I met a lot of people who have become resources for me.) These resources have helped with my Nightforce Security Series, my Medici Protectorate Series, and my Astral Conspiracies Series (written under the pen name D. L. Cross).

POLICE QUESTIONS
I have a cousin on a small town force and a friend who is employed in a big city. I also have a family member with connections on forces in multiple towns. (He works for a 9-1-1 center and knows everybody.) I’ve made use of their help in my Cathedral Lake Series, my Medici Protectorate Series, and my Steel City Crime novels (written under the pen name Delilah Cross).

AMMUNITION QUESTIONS
I think I know more people who are gun enthusiasts than people who aren’t. I’ve pestered several of them for specifics on gun terminology. I think I’ve had questions about guns in every series I’ve written.

LEGAL QUESTIONS
I’m incredibly lucky in this regard. My sister-in-law is an attorney. Her knowledge was invaluable in my Cathedral Lake Series, Medici Protectorate Series, and Nightforce Security Series.

MEDICAL QUESTIONS
My nephew-in-law is a surgeon. And I have a few friends from my Ohio days who are also doctors. I relied heavily on their knowledge for the Cathedral Lake Series, and I’ve asked smaller questions for other books.

ENGINEERING QUESTIONS
I have a nephew who is an aerospace engineer. His help was critical when I was looking for information about Ospreys for my Astral Conspiracies Series and for a standalone novel I suspect will never see the light of day.

FOREIGN COUNTRY QUESTIONS Not all of my books are set in places I’ve been. I have writing friends all over the globe, and my daughter goes to a school with a high foreign population. Between her connections and mine, I have the help of several subject matter experts when I need to know a word or phrase or the feel of an area. These contacts were extremely helpful when I wrote the Medici Protectorate Series and the Astral Conspiracies Series.

The list goes on and on.

Am I writing this to gloat about my good fortune? No. Although I would like to give them all a shout-out and a huge hug of thanks. I’m writing this to remind you that there’s more to research than the Internet.

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Social Media Contacts
  • PR Liaison for Police and Fire Departments
  • Public Affairs Officer at a Nearby Military Branch
  • Experts in the Field (I’ve called boat tour companies with questions about ships and routes and asked high rollers questions about gambling and casinos; my sister has talked to curators about museum operations.)
  •  Librarians (they can often find things you can’t because they know the terms and locations to use)

This list goes on and on, too.

When you have a question and Google’s no help, think beyond your laptop. A few tips to remember:

  • Be courteous when you reach out.
  • Have a list of questions ready so you don’t waste their time.
  • Request a follow-up if you need one.
  • Don’t expect an immediate answer. You’re on their time-table, not yours.
  • Thank them when the question is answered.
  • Thank them again in the book acknowledgments and/or a blog post. (This will depend on your publisher’s feeling on an acknowledgments section.)
  • If appropriate, send them a signed copy of your book once it’s published. (Or an eBook if you don’t do print copies.)

The Internet is a handy tool for research, but sometimes it’s not enough. I bet if you really stop and think about it, you know someone who can answer almost any question you have. What’s the most interesting research you’ve ever done for a book? And where did you get your answers? Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo Bio

52 thoughts on “A Word About Research

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  2. Pingback: A Word About Research – Sharon E. Cathcart

  3. There’s a public group online called Crimescene writer at groups. io.This group has all kinds of experts in it and you can post a question and you will get great answers from law officers, judges, lawyers and so on.
    Lots of useful info!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoy research Staci. I like to keep the smallest of details accurate. Its great you have so many people around you who help:) I like all the resources you list, very helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Some great tips on resources for research from Staci Troilo today. I found it very helpful, and I think some of you will, as well. Check it out and pass it on, if you can. Thanks, and thanks to Staci for these suggestions. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely excellent advice, Staci! Thanks so much for the suggestions. I deal largely with things I’m familiar with, especially regarding settings, wildlife, and “southernese” dialects, but I also have at least passing references to things I’m NOT an expert in. A bit of law enforcement here or there, and some issues that require a knowledge of medical conditions, etc. While my books are nott focused on those areas in any great detail, I still don’t want to say something so glaringly wrong it pulls readers who know better right out of the story. I appreciate this post, especially the suggestions on sources we can reach out to. Sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think people are often overlooked. And I love books as research. I try not to do that, though, because I’d lose weeks to reading them. (And probably a lot of money, too.) But books are always more in-depth than an article (obviously) and can unearth delicious tidbits we wouldn’t find elsewhere.

      Like

  7. It is amazing how much research goes into a book. I’m currently working on a tale that covers multiple venues and time periods. Wyatt Earp makes an appearance. He’s wearing a gun. The gun needs to be checked as to what he might have carried. The hat, boots, saddle, and pants have to be appropriate for the time. So research it is even before the scene gets rolling. I like the idea of people. I also like the idea of researching the details to get them right. Thanks, Staci.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I must be twisted, but I love the research almost as much as writing. My Google Fu has improved over the years, and Google translate has been a big help. I’m not a tool guy, but my brother is. He even owns a fully functional blacksmith’s shop. He’s been a great resource on occasion. There is a lot to say for just having lived prior to the Internet. I know what it takes to kindle a fire from wet wood, what a slick rock desert smells like after a thunderstorm, and what it sounds like in the arctic when everything is melting.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love doing research, but most of mine is done through books. I do use Google, but if I need to research a subject, I’m apt to buy a book or two on the topic. I read cover to cover with a highlighter and a notebook for handwritten notes. That’s been my pattern for years. For quick, easy answers to something, I hop on the internet.

    The most interesting research I’ve done was for my Point Pleasant Series of novels. I made two trips to the actual locations I used in the books. Fortunately, West Virginia is only six hours away so it was feasible to do long weekends. I got to visit several of the historic sites and the areas where the Mothman was rumored to hide. I also spoke to several locals.

    One thing I will warn if you’re researching something on location–not everyone is forthcoming or wants to be. I encountered one woman who was downright nasty. Fortunately, she was the only one, and my experience with her was offset by her boss who was the epitome of the perfect gentleman.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can’t imagine why anyone would be rude when asked a question about his or her hometown. That’s ridiculous! But that does raise a good point—not everyone will be helpful. (Such a shame.) In-person research is wonderful. Nothing beats immersing yourself in the subject. How I wish I could have gone to Italy for some hands-on research.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Good point! There has been numerous smaller stories that I have just written for myself, where I have needed some information about for example gardening (which I now NOTHING about.. Plants despise me). I remember asking my mom a bunch of questions about plants, how to make them grow, the different species, etc. I think she really enjoyed teaching me about it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My sister also has a brown thumb; you’re not alone. But how nice that you not only got to learn what you needed, but you also got to spend quality time with your mother. That’s a memory you’ll both always treasure. Thanks for sharing that story, Michelle.

      Like

  11. I have used Google, I believe everyone does. But like you, I am fortunate to have friends and family with vast knowledge in many of the areas I heed help with. You can get a lot of great information when you actually speak to a person. And, you can get a feel for the situation when speaking with someone rather than just the facts you get from Google.

    Great post, Staci.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. When I first started writing, I hated the thought of doing research because I wanted to delve directly into writing. But I’ve always been naturally curious and love trivia. When I want to know something I first turn to the internet (even if it’s only curiosity about a certain thing).

    The most interesting research? Several years ago we had a series of arsons in our area. The buildings were all churches and it turned out one of the arsonists lived in the same town. (No more than two miles from me. Yikes!) That event prompted the storyline. I looked for articles about famous arson cases and even bought a book written by an arson investigator. I also read online articles about the arsons in our area, how the culprits were caught, etc.

    I also enjoyed the research for a time-travel short story which required my obtaining some knowledge about the Navy. The most interesting part was looking back to the year 1943 (what food cost, what movies were popular, what Naval bases were open then). It was fun.

    I also turn to friends and family. My brother has been a big help with art questions. I work in a hospital, so I can ask doctors questions. I have a friend who is a retired police detective and is now a private investigator.

    Can you tell I’ve come to love research?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Google Earth is so helpful when you’re writing about a real place. I use Google Maps satellite view, too.

      I love that you constantly ask why. Me, too. I think curiosity should be nurtured. (But I have to confess, when my kids were little and the why-train ran long, it did get tiring. I never discouraged them, though.)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I am a great believer in asking questions and seem to have spent most of my life doing it. There is always so much that is unexplained, or not enough for my feeble brain to catch hold of. Some of the most important material can be found by asking a simple question…

    Liked by 3 people

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