Well, I suppose that all depends on context and volume, if I were to run up to you yelling "What the researching research have you done with my researching papers, you researching son of a researcher!" then, depending upon my tone, you may conclude that a) I am rather angry about something, or b) I have become 'stuck' on the word 'research' like a record with the needle jammed in the groove, and need a good shove to dislodge the word, and move on to something more appropriate, like '*&!!*'
In fact, neither of these are the case. Is the case. Whatever. In fact, I have been indulging in a little research. Now, I know that I am usually a research denier, on account of the fact that I have such a short attention span that, during research, my brain wanders off and has been known to sign up for backgammon tournaments, file buttons according to size and recover a sofa in tofu during attempts to get it to look into the history of something. So, here I am to give you some of my own personal tips on attempting research without driving your brain into reckless hobbies or making you go blind, or anything.
(I should point out here, in the interests of full disclosure, that I am researching a town as a location for my forthcoming book, not knitting stitches or the history of armour or anything useful, so you may want to skip this post and go and drink some tea or something. After all, any tips I can offer on anything are basically going to boil down to 'eat cake' and 'sit down a lot', so, you know, usefulness - not so much).
1. Walk around alone. This is great if you are researching a location, not if you are researching ladies' clothing through the ages, when it will just get you arrested. But, for investigating places, walking alone through streets and looking up are to be recommended - skylines can be very revealing places. If you go with someone, you will be distracted by their chatter and desire to go into teashops.
2. Take pictures. Honestly, however much you think you will remember, you won't. Also buy local tourist guides (I mean the booklet things, not the people, they won't even let you rent a tourist guide person to take home) and maps. Remember to point the camera at specifics, the building where you think your characters may live, or the graveyard in which they meet. It is always worth pointing this out, since I inevitably get home to sixty thousand long-shots of a town, and one, inexplicable, shot of a pigeon.
3. Sit and listen to local dialogue and patterns of speech. Harder in some places than others, but you will, if you listen hard enough, inevitably pick up some variants of local dialect and accent. I recommend park benches for this, but, and I cannot stress this highly enough, do not attempt to take notes while people are talking. They always think you are spying on them. Which you are, so, fair enough, and don't expect me to stump up your bail money.
4. Make a note of smells. This may sound a little strange, but smells are very important. When books mention 'local colour' they don't mean actual colour like 'the trees were that particular shade of greenish brown that you get when you leave a coffee cup for six months with half an inch of coffee in the bottom', they mean all the things that make that place that place, and not somewhere else. Rivers, for example. In a town a river might smell of old weed that's been dredged out and left on the bank, or rusting shopping trolleys, or that kind of mud that children love to poke with sticks. In the countryside it mostly smells of ducks. Smells are important.
5. Absorb the atmosphere. Yes, all right, this is basically sitting down a lot and eating cake, but you can absorb while you're doing it. If you absorb sufficiently you can't get your coat on again afterwards.
I hope this helps.
|My research location. Smells like Teen Spirit, oddly enough.|