Friday, July 27, 2007

Research Tripping

I enjoyed last week’s blogs by my fellow Ink Ladies about the joys of research. I wanted to take a second to add my thoughts on one of my favorite forms of research: Research Tripping.

I recently took a trip to a famous U.S. city to do some research for an upcoming book. I had visited the city as a teenager, so I knew the basic sights and landmarks, but as I visited the spot again, this time as a researcher, I had a completely different experience.

This time, I noticed things I didn’t even think about before. The scents inside a Polish bakery. The mannerisms of a shop owner. The shoes of a tour guide. The taste of the local bottled water. I paid attention to the texture of napkins, the humidity in the air, the length of the stoplights. As a writer in research mode, I experienced the city on such a deeper, richer level than I had before.

I also seriously enjoyed getting away with saying things like: “Well, I know the steak is a little pricey, but I better try it, my character might get steak.” And, “I know I just had a root beer float at that other place, but what if my character wants ice cream in a waffle cone from this place. I better get one just in case.” And I loved watching how workers, from clothing store clerks to hotel receptionists to hot dog stand standers treated me so much better when they saw I was taking notes. Secret: If you want to get star treatment on your next trip, carry around a notebook like a Research Tripper, and watch what happens.

I came home from my trip with amazing pictures, tons of notes, a bag filled with everything from a parking garage ticket stub to a picture of me standing next to a fortune teller, and a renewed love for Research Tripping.

Now if only I can convince my husband that when I hit my head on the car door last week, my brain was wiped of all memories of our newly-wed trip to Mexico, and I simply have to go back. For research purposes, of course.


Tamra Norton said...

Oh, now my curiosity is piqued! Where'd you go and what project will all this research be used for? Sounds like you had a great time.

On my recent Idaho trip, I went to a rodeo and, of course, had to sample the scones...for research purposes, of course. I'll be using that taste and smell in an upcoming novel for sure.

Annette Lyon said...

This is so true! Any time I take a trip, my senses are on high alert just in case I'll ever use something in my writing. It's amazing how much more vibrant everything is when you're looking at it through a writer's lens.

I'll have to try the notepad trick, though. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Now that's smart -- it never occurred to me all the things I could get away with, in the name of research . . . :)