How do you perform your research before starting a new book?

Well, title says it all. As I´m preparing to start writing my very first book I´m curious about what tools you guys are using when doing reserach. Do you visit the places you are going to write about and if so, what do you observe and how do you document your observations? Is there other good ways of research something than simply Googleing it (Google scares me)? Tell me every last detail, please...:)

Views: 2307


Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I'm not sure I should even be weighing in on this discussion, because I read mysteries rather than write them,
but Elizabeth George has said that it's character that drives plot. I'd agree with that. If you are a keen observer of people, with a grasp of human psychology, that's going to be a big advantage. You really do need a good strong plot. If you were to set your story in a place you know well---especially as a beginning writer---- you'd also have an advantage. You might not want to bog yourself down in research TOO early in the writing of your book---just let it flow, and then fill in what you need later on. Get the story told!
As a constant reader, I'm always impressed by a writer's ability to evoke a particular place,and how that contributes to the story, especially to its mood, and 9 times out of 10, it's because they have lived there, and they know the people. Of course there are exceptions. But knowing a place and its people is not so much research as...well, experience. Wherever you go, take a notebook. Jot down observations and impressions. If you observe a number of village churches in Sweden, for instance since you mention that, that will serve you well in creating a fictional one.
If you need hard facts, like how a police department operates, information on forensics, terminology, those are all things that can be researched depending upon your setting & characters. As others have said, "as needed."
As a visual artist, a painter, I find I do best if I just plunge in, make up something---then work out the details later, after I've got the composition. Go from intuition first, is what I always say!
This is certainly true for me, but there are readers who read for technical detail and buy certain authors purely for their research into weaponry or strange old books, etc. For me research was always necessary, and I did tons of it for the first decade. These days, I have the leisure to work on character and psychology and very little new research.
For me research was always necessary,

Yes, I think writers of historical fiction would have to do the research first---a kind of immersion---in order to write a convincing story.
Amen to that!
Just wanted to so that I´m glad so many people have given their opinions in this thread. I will, offcourse, take all your ideas under consideration before I start writing my first book. :D
And some day your book may be translated into English and I'll read it. :)
I list the professions/people I need to talk to, but save the questions until I am in the story. Then I try to group all my questions so I can send one request or conduct one interview. Unless I know the person very well, I try not to be a pest.
I have been writing articles about my efforts in preparing to write a FACTion novel. The articles can be found on They are: Writing a novel with an art-work selection at; Wounded Knee Massacre Resurrected at; Macro and Micro Structure of Novel, Chapter and Scene at; Writing a novel; Narrator: he, she or me, past/present tense at; and Novel writing: faction versus fiction versus half-n-half

Because I am living in Costa Rica and the events of the novel occurred in South Dakota, I have had and still do have many of the problems some of you have addressed in this thread of posts. I have never been to South Dakota. I have not been on an Indian reservation. I have not been in any of the locations to see the topography, the flora and the fauna, the physical buildings. I have never smelled the aromas in those places. Although I have read the trial transcripts and dozens of related files, I was not at the trial of the four Native American defendants, all relatives who have been in four federal prisons for almost two decades.

Thanks to technology, three of them have phoned me on SKYPE, two of them have emailed me, and three of them have written me "memoirs" of their life before they were arrested. Several family members have also phoned. One now-grown youngster is getting ready to photograph all the relevant locales. Two of the children -- now men -- have made videos and have written affidavits and have been interviewed. The wife of the now-deceased primary expert has forwarded copies of the children's physical records and the social worker's and therapist's notes.

As a result. I am hearing their voices, learning their vocal demeanors, listening to their sadness as well as their laughter when they recall old jokes and the funny things that happened in the past.

The men described in exquisite detail the many affairs they had with adult women -- a subject important to cover to show that they never had reason to sexually assault very young children in their families.

My research has focused on the history of the American Indian since the last half of the 19th century through the present day. The history of the men in the Indian movement , in tribal controversies, in exposing corruption of the BIA, certain tribal leaders, the tribal casino, in opposing the unlawful sale by the feds of parcels of the Indian reservation. All of this has uncovered motives for the false accusations by the feds.

Dialogue during the past events and past affairs will need my imagination.

Clearly, as one of the list members as written, I must be careful not to let some of the information overwhelm the story. So careful selection is mandatory.

My last article -- which will be published this week -- reveals that I shall be guided by Donald Maass's advice: to wit, to write the first and last lines of each scene, each chapter. If I cannot show conflict, internal and external, then I shall cut the scene out.

I would appreciate hearing any constructive criticism by this group of my articles. Talking about what I am planning or trying to do and doing it are different things. I am, therefore, open too all suggestions. THANKS!!
Become a criminal?

Okay, kidding. But this is a crime writing site, so I assume your book is related to crime. Read the newspaper. This is where I get lots of ideas for books. Talk to people who deal with criminals, cops, lawyers, D.A.s, probation officers. Reading books is okay for nailing down specific questions, maybe, but I've learned more in a couple of hours talking to a homicide detective than I ever did from reading books, including "true crime" books.

Just jump in feet first. Talk to people. Hang out in crime-ridden neighborhoods. I used to go an Italian cafe in the North End of Boston which was owned by "connected" mobsters, just to listen to how people talked. Well, the mobsters went there at 2 A.M. for their "sitdowns" but I didn't. Still, just listening to how the patrons and waiters talked was great flavor and I'm not talkin coffee, ya know?
Hello, Susan,
Sounds like we traveled in the same circles. Do you remember the now-deceased former capo Joe Russo? His sister phoned me one Saturday, telling me that Joe wanted to interview me. He was checking out potential defense counsel. He was in Middleton jail at the time. He was one of the mob who the "law" picked up after the meeting in Revere -- if I remember correctly.
He had been indicted for 28 crimes, including a few murders.

His sister had told me that she sent him works by Charles Dickens, one of his favorites, and John Donne. He had had plenty of time to read while in prison for much of his life.

Anyway, still looking good and feeling the same, I met him. I wore a huge grasshopper pin on an over the shoulder scarf. My suit was Italian wool. He liked the suit. Said he had one of similar cloth.

Joe and I hit it off. Unbelievably charming and attractive. I would love to have had dinner with him had he ever gotten out of prison. Ha! Boston magazine showed him on the cover with a long mink coat and a pimp hat. Clearly the man was self-educated. He could have been rich and powerful had he gone "straight."

I asked him how he would pay me. He said, he'd leave the money under the rug. My response was, Sounds like you'd have to leave them under all the rugs.

He never did hire me or any other attorney. Without an atty, he could participate in the meetings in the judge's chambers and hear what the other guys -- through their attys -- were saying.

Soon thereafter they shipped him to Leavenworth. He had, of course, been ratted on by the other members who had been arrested around the same time.

The police had dozens of tapes. I have forgotten how many. I do recall that there were over 2000 hours taped. That alone was approx one year's worth of the average working stiff.

I asked him why he wanted to interview me, then a middle-age female solo-practitioner. I learned that he thought the male criminal defense attys would likely ignore me and he would pretend that he was not one of the birds of a feather. What he did not realize was that I knew the other crim def attys, but I would certainly have clued them in to ignore me.

Bottom line: he died in prison. Natural causes? I have no idea. His sister was living the life of a soccer mom in a bedroom community outside Boston.

An atty friend of mine -- a gal -- was an "expert" in appraising property. She did the appraisals for diverse marinas owned by the one of the major made men. He was in jail but was always trying to lower the town assessments on those properties.

So these men seem to have lives unlike those for which they are known in the mainstream press.

I stopped buying the Globe when some reporter would call me for an inside story on a major crime figure. I of course had to maintain confidentiality, so I knew their stories would not be worth reading.

Actually, criminal defense was not my primary focus while practicing. I just happened to be good at it, i.e., when I took a crim case. My name, I was told, was being spread around in the jails/prisons. I found crim cases to be much more fun than civil cases. I hated the small or misdemeanor cases. The misdemeanor defendants were usually boring, had IQs far below 100, and never made enough change to get on the MBTA. They never had the money to buy toothpaste and their breath smelled badly. On occasion, I believed that they did not have body soap.

Read the Advocate's Devil by Dershowitz. You might enjoy it.
Hmmm. Sounds like you had a few adventures with the "interesting" folk around Boston. I had no direct connection to any mobsters in Boston, but years ago as a musician I worked in and around Providence. Federal Hill, etc. One of the contractors who hired me for a lot of gigs was, I'm pretty sure, connected ... if only marginally. Charming man. Good musician. Not to be crossed.

Don't recall Joe Russo. Flemmi and Salemme, yes, but they're more recent. Ray Patriarcha (sp?) was in power when I was working in RI during the '70s. Then his son took over, got bagged (as I'm sure you recall) after a made-guy ceremony in Medford was taped by the feds.

Read the book Goodfellas was based on, by Joe Pistone? I think it was. Excellent book, great movie. Scorsese nailed it. Loved the scene when they go to Joe Pecci's house and his mother (Scorsese's real mother) makes them sit down and eat. Totally realistic and believable. I've known women like that ... worked with a lot of Italian musicians in Providence. I tell you. ;)
The Medford ceremony might be the same one as I was thinking of. It was so many years ago and I have listened and learned about so many cases that after a while they have begun to blend.

Your post made me recall another case. Guy was indicted of multiple sexual assaults/rape of one of his daughters. I managed to get the whole thing dismissed in the local district court before it got transferred to superior court.

What happened was his ex-wife married one of the made-men. He had just been released after 10 or 12 years in fed court. He had been convicted as an accessory to the murder of one of the capos. His involvement: he drove the car or truck in which the body was moved. It may have been to a river. I forget. If you want the ID, I can fill you in backchannel on the name, place, etc. At the time, there was a debacle who was to run which organization: one in RI, one in MA or CT, and a third in NY.

Well, the new hubby interfered with the visitation of my client with his daughters. My client (actually BEFORE he became my client) did NOT NOT NOT know who this guy was, so when the new hubby interfered, my guy -- a mild-mannered church-going, short and small-boned guy -- spoke up to the new hubby and told him not to interfere with his relationship with his own daughters.

I believe what happened was a set-up from beginning to end. Some very curious and very humorous things happened. If you want, I can fill you in on the details backchannel, preferably by phone so that I don't have to type.


CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2024   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service