April 20, 2017 by Valerie Ullmer
How I Learned to Write – April 20th, 2017
Research and Settings
Each book you write will be completely different from what you have written previously, even if your book is in the same series. Because of that, you will need to research everything from your characters career, what city or town they live in, whether they live in a house or apartment, why they chose to live there, who their friends are, and on and on. This is another aspect of getting to know your story before you write it.
I will use the Dark Assassins series as an example.
When I first developed the Dark Assassins idea, I knew that I wanted to have vampires and shifters depicted in a different way that what is out there in books and movies, so my first step was to research. There are many sites on vampires that tell of the legends and what makes a vampire a vampire, but I took nothing as gospel. It was the same for shifters. Instead, I made note of everything of interest that I would like to include in my book and even created some that weren’t even in the lore of possibilities.
The vampires in my world are not dead, but in a form of stasis so their hearts beat. They need the blood for nourishment because they are unable to digest, but they are not “undead”. The shifters in my world are different animals, from wolves to snow leopards, and I found that I liked the anomaly of different animals. Just as I liked that the shifters and the vampires in my stories grew close to each other over the years, and consider each other family. For Liv, she was an immunologist so I had to research her career, what it entailed. And to have Liv as detailed as possible, I also had to determine the way she spoke. She had been a loner most of her life, choosing to concentrate on study and her career, so I reflected that in the way she spoke and it also changed the way she perceived the world around her.
Little details can make or break a story.
So along with your research on your characters and their lives, you also need to research the area where your characters reside and work.
I created a whole new place for my Dark Assassins to reside. In Snowfall, Colorado, I imagined a city in a large mountain valley that housed several technology and biotech businesses as well as a university that could compete with some of the best in the country. The assassins could blend in because the city covered a huge amount of land and being surrounded by mountains could allow the shifters freedom to roam without the chance of being spotted by a stray hiker or human.
I have learned that researching and imagining your setting goes hand in hand. Where your character chooses to live meshes with their personality, which is another area you research when you develop your characters. I have pictures of where I believe my characters would live and work and I even go as far as to think about how they would decorate their houses or how they would organize their desk at work.
But a word of warning. You can quickly get lost in research as you immerse yourself in your imaginary world. Although research is as important as getting to know your characters, there is such a thing as too much research. My advice is to create your own world based on what you research and don’t let what you find be the only things you include in your story. Use the information as reference, not gospel. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.