Wednesday, April 9, 2014
When All Else Fails - Research!
Currently at work on the third book of my Bridgeton Park Cemetery series, I just reached a point where the story branch I was following has disappeared into a wall, and nothing else is occurring. When I had a little less writing experience, this sort of speed bump would throw me into a panic. It took some time before I realized that getting stuck occasionally was not necessarily writer's block, but was more like a re-orienting to what part of the story needed to be told next. So now when inspiration becomes hard to find, I have learned that the best trick up my sleeve, my most efficient, fall-back, writing-related activity - is research.
Now for me, that can come under the guise of googling a detail for my story (Lorado Taft's stunning but frightening grave marker "Eternal Silence"), reading (all writers must read, mustn't they?), or watching one of my favorite paranormal reality shows (Ghost Hunters, The Haunting of...., Celebrity Ghost Stories, Paranormal Witness, etc.), or -and best of all- looking up ghost tours for upcoming travels (we're going to Williamsburg, VA in a couple of months).
Because I am obsessed with the paranormal, I don't have a difficult time entertaining myself with what can easily be found, whether in books, on TV, or on the Internet. I happily waste, er, use up hours on my research.
The thing is, though, when I'm doing this sort of digging around, all kinds of details start suggesting themselves to my muse, whispering bits of inspiration into the back of my mind, giving me glimpses of the sorts of hauntings my characters will face, even just suggesting particular words and phrases that I know are good for giving me goose bumps, and therefore good for unsettling my readers.
I also find interesting items that just may turn up in the next book or, even better, kick off an entirely new story that will hopefully find a home in one of my future works. And once my mind is free to play with that, then the flood of details and dialogue and situations I have been seeking bubbles to the fore and I can continue working on my current project, excited all over again to sit down at the keyboard.
Research, like music, seems to help me find a way to tap into that part of me that sees stories and needs to share them. Sometimes when I am slogging away on a novel, I forget about that inner excitement and urgency that results in what I hope will be a great read for someone else. Research helps me calm down my inner panic and work my way back to productivity. Is that true for you as well?