Fiction is made up, right? Surprisingly, I do quite a bit of research for my mysteries (novels and short stories). I want the story to be plausible and as accurate as possible. Even though it's fiction, readers notice when the writer doesn't get it right.
My sassy Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, gets herself into all kinds of adventures. I do a lot of research for that series. In Secret Lives and Private Eyes, my PI lives in a Sears Catalog house from 1939. The houses were ordered and shipped by rail for assembly. I found great information on the Sears Catalog homes that have been preserved through the years. In the first book in the series, she attends her first ComiCon and investigates a theft at an art museum. In the second book, she learns all about LARPing (Live-action Role Playing) and roller derby as she investigates a serial murder in central Virginia. I did some interviews and online research to get my background information on her activities.
Here's are some good research links for writers.
- I use Google Maps and Google Street View to scope out locations, look for place and street names, and to check the surroundings of real places. I never have a murder take place at a real location. I make up those place names, but my characters frequently visit real places and tourist spots. Google is great for finding place names and great places to hide bodies.
- I use baby name lists from past years (just Google popular baby names by year) and decades to make sure that the names fit the age of the character. Certain names were popular in specific decades.
- My dad is a retired police officer. He's my police procedural resource. He's used to my, "Hey, Dad, what does a meth lap smell like" or "Can I kill someone with a guitar string" kinds of questions. Our dinner conversations are always interesting. If you don't have professional resources. Check around your community. Many have police/fire/safety presentations where you can make contacts. Twitter is also a great place to find answers and subject matter experts.
- I am a member of Sisters and Crime. Our chapter has a lot of programs, and the speakers are willing to answer all kinds of questions. It's a great place to get ideas and to network with real-world professionals. In the last year, we've had campus police chiefs, a K9 rescue dog trainer, and a mortician talk to our writers.
- The Writer's Police Academy is also a wonderful opportunity to get hands on experience with police/fire/rescue techniques.
- My talented writer friend, Fiona Quinn, has a great blog that teaches writers how to write it right. I find a lot of good information in her posts. Check out her site and tweets.
Research isn't just for non-fiction. What other sites would you add to my list?