Yeah, so I’m one of those people who doesn’t much care for research. I don’t exactly hate it. I can simply find about ten million things I’d rather do. Besides investigating facts for stories, I also clump into this loose category of “research” reading craft books – of which, I’ve only read one, cover to cover, and maybe glanced at perhaps half a dozen or so others. So why am I writing about the value of something I admittedly don’t put much stock in?
Well, first off, just because I am not an avid practitioner doesn’t mean I don’t place value on research (of any kind). But there is another kind of research that I’d like to address here, and lately I’ve been devoting a great deal of time to this.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been pretty much MIA. No work. No meeting friends for dinner. A notable exception I made was attending our last HBA (Houston Bay Area) chapter of Romance Writers of America meeting. Why? Because after seven long months away, my hubby is visiting home from Afghanistan.
What does this have to do with research? I’m so really glad you asked.
Most of us write Romance and if not straight Romance, then stories with strong romantic subplots. And what lies at the very core of a Romance (or a subplot?)? Emotion. And nothing stokes emotion quicker, brighter or with more intensity than relationships.
And so, at our last HBA meeting, I joked about rushing home to do “research” (wink, wink). The thing is, I wasn’t really joking. Me and my old man have been married 33 years, and the truly remarkable things about our months of separation is the chance to be giddy with joy at seeing each other again; is the chance to get to know each other again; is the chance to work at making sure we are not taking each other for granted. While I would never recommend sending your man off to a war zone, there is a silver lining, even with such a thing.
What I learn from my own personal relationship, I can then apply to my stories – the gut wrenching, hollow feel when I drop him off at the airport at the beginning of another long separation; the strength it takes not to give into depression when he’s gone (and believe me, I struggle mightily with this one); the warmth of having him home; the growth we go through as we reestablish intimacy.
I add to this spousal research, the utter wonder I’m experiencing as I “research” getting to know my grandson. I’ll admit to not getting this obsession with grandkids until I experienced it for myself, but by golly, it’s like a daily barrage of little miracles.
When you combine 1) hubby home with 2) little Charlie, there is nothing that makes those relationships more special than sharing them with family. Yes, as you might imagine, my family has been spending a considerable amount of time visiting parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, etc.
I’ve read articles and heard folks talking about how, as a writer, you are forced to give up some areas of your life in order to make room for the incredible amount of time that writing a novel takes. I’m not advocating doing otherwise. So what if your floors are dirty. Your heroine has just discovered some deep dark secret about the hero that is threatening . . . why simple everything. Or the hero is left dangling off a cliff with two minutes left before ten people fall to their deaths, including a small child and a lovable dog. What are clean floors compared to resolving such issues?
What I am saying is that in the helter-skelter world of our lives, when there are soooo many things pulling us one way or the other, don’t forget that its relationships we are writing about. And what better way to draw out the emotion of those relationships than by doing research through our own. That’s the kind research I can dig.
Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.
Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.
Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.