Let’s go back to high school for a moment. Remember the dread that descended whenever you were assigned a major research project? Perhaps we differ, but I did not enjoy reading, categorizing, and analyzing the volumes of information those assignments required.
Funny how things change with age!
To the casual reader, it might not seem like a romance writer would have to research much of anything. After all, don’t we all have experience with yearning, heartache, and love? Yet research is necessary to tell any good story, including a romance.
For example, last year while plotting Worth the Trouble (coming Feb. 23, 2016), I met with Tom Throop of Black Creek Designs to learn about the handmade furniture business. Similarly, I’m currently plotting the third book in my Sterling Canyon series (2017 release), which involves a two more professions I’m unfamiliar with (competitive snowboarding and documentary filmmaking). Unfortunately, my trusty assistant—Google—could only take me so far. After stalking some folks on Twitter and such, I did find two people willing to help me: former competitive snowboarder Brock Butterfield, and documentary filmmaker Megan Smith-Harris.
Not only does personal research give me the fact set I need to create authentic plot points, but it also provides a rich vein of data for character development.
For example, Brock—a former freeride snowboarding competitor—not only provided me with technical information about the competitions, but also gave me an inside look at the internal conflict and obstacles a competitive snowboarder might face. Similarly, Megan—a longtime documentary producer/director—taught me rudimentary filmmaking fundamentals and lingo, and also helped me flesh out material and potential conflict for supporting characters in my book.
Best of all, doing this research introduces me to people whose lives vary greatly from my own, thereby broadening my perspective (which can only help my writing). I usually experience a little envy after each interview, and waste more than a few hours fantasizing about what it would be like to live those other lives.
There’s no doubt that the meat of a romance novel is the couple’s emotional and psychological journey, which does not require much research. But to write a layered story with a credible plot and engaging secondary characters, research is not only critical, but also—SURPRISE!–fun.
What topic or career would you like to learn more about, and why?