Thursday, April 7, 2011

Research: Up Close And Personal


I know authors who travel to Scotland or Ireland for inspiration when writing historical novels set in those wonderful places. Others spend vacations in cities like New Orleans, New York, or San Francisco to gain insight while writing urban fantasy.

I'm not claiming you need to visit a location to write about it. There are other ways to learn the particulars of a place. Books, videos, travel guides, and internet sites contain a plethora of information.

But…

Visit a place. See the people. Hear the sounds. Smell the scents. Taste the flavors. Touch the very fabric of the place. Close your eyes and allow the essence to seep into your bones. Your creativity will soar.

For my paranormal Sea Panther, the initial inspiration came from viewing the movie Pirates of the Caribbean and from reading the book The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodward. The plot morphed after I visited several port towns along the Atlantic coast including Annapolis and St. Mary's City, GA. Places where my hero and heroine stop as they sail south, along the coast.

Sea Panther's plot morphed again when I took a trip to the Florida everglades. Some scenes take place in a South Florida swamp. On my recent trip to Florida, I got up close and personal with some of the critters that make an appearance in my story--small deer, armadillos, snakes and...yeah...an alligator. Unfortunately, the ever-elusive Florida panther remained hidden.

The story is mostly finished now. Just a bit more polishing. I didn't get to visit Jamaica where some scenes take place, but I watched video travel guides and read about the colorful place. Maybe I'll visit while writing the sequel.

What locations have you visited and included in your stories?


Dawn Marie Hamilton

Visit me at Castles and Guns every other Tuesday starting May 10.

12 comments:

Pat McDermott said...

Snakes and alligators would certainly inspire me, Dawn - to stay in New England! :-) You know I've visited Ireland several times, and I've found those visits helpful in describing scenes in my stories. In one of my books, I wrote about Mendocino, California, a place I'd never seen. I used travel books and the internet as guides. When I finally got to visit the area, I found I hadn't done a bad job, though I might have changed a few details if I'd been there first. Sadly, travel for the sole purpose of research isn't an option for most of us, but nothing says we can't switch the process around and turn a great vacation into a story!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

I love your Irish alternative history adventures, Pat.

Turning a great vacation into a story worked for me. After attending the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain, I wrote Just Beyond the Garden Gate, which has done well in a couple of contests.

Thanks for dropping by.

Jill James said...

I used Los Angeles for my debut book. I love the city. I love how a mile in any direction seems like a different city. The feel is so laid back even with what feels like a million cars on the freeway.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

I imagine LA would pose a challenge as a setting. Good luck with your book, Jill!

Misty Dietz said...

Great post, Dawn. Ideas come from everywhere, don't they? I plan to write a story set in the woods in Minnesota where we have a little cabin. Something about it just begs for a story about danger, mystery and love. :)

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Misty, The setting sounds intriguing. I hope to hear more about the progress of your story. Thanks for visiting Voices.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Dawn, I write stories set in the gold rush era in California. Lucky for me we live where my stories are set and I have all of this wonderful living history and people who have had families here forever. I see stories everywhere!

BUT, my hero is always Scottish so that three weeks in Scotland certainly goes a long way in creating my hero. You gotta love those Scots!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Paisley, You are so right. Gotta love a man in a kilt.

Josie said...

Dawn,
I write Tudor historicals, and have had the wonderful opportunity to visit England, Scotland, and Ireland. These countries are all beautiful and a wonderful source of inspiration. I'm a musician, so I especially am motivated by the music.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

That's great, Josie. I took a mini-semester lit-course/vacation to England and Scotland many moons ago, back when I was in college. I hope to visit again in the near future.

Denise said...

I travel all over the USA with my husband for his work. We take pictures of things I think I can use for my writing and I write a description to keep in my writing file for future reference.

One of my first books started in Kentucky and ended up in Texas. When he went to work in Kentucky I was able to tweak my descriptions and then he headed to Texas--to the very area I needed for my book. It was awesome to be able to do that and I highly recommend it to anyone who can get to the area they are writing about. It does add an extra element to your writing.

Great post and wonderful pictures.

Clarissa Southwick said...

I used a lot of our local sites in my Oregon Trail story. That was nothing like what you've got here. Great advice, great pictures, great post. Thanks for sharing :)