Saturday, August 20, 2011

Navigating the Land of Researchia

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot goes into the in-between steps of going from a tangle of notes to a nice, orderly script, and while I’ve touched on research in terms of character and costume design, equally important is researching settings. This isn’t true only for the part where you have to draw what your characters are standing in front of-slash-in-slash-around.

Working on chapters three and four, I was once again reminded how important knowing my scenery is to getting a scene written.

Parque Gulliver in Valencia, Spain.*

If I want my characters interacting with their environment, I can only write so much without having a good idea of what that environments looks like. Not a problem if the scene is set in modern-day America. I know about modern-day America. That’s totally where I live. The problem is that at no point is my story set in modern-day America. Or even yesteryear America.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Each chapter so far has required some whole new set of research, but chapters three and four have been especially challenging because the story takes us to a bunch different locations across the world. Whilst I’m enjoying learning about a lot of cool new stuff, the process is almost always either overwhelming because there’s too much information or frustrating because there’s just not enough.

A neighborhood in India's Cochin, Kerala

Specifically I need pictures, en lieu of actually being able to go out and visit these places (oh, how I wish I could jet off to other parts of the world on a whim). Even if it’s a really short scene that will only take up two pages of the entire project, I still need visual references when it comes time to block characters within any particular scene. ESPECIALLY action/fight sequences.

Bokor Hill Station in Phnom Bokor, Cambodia

Hunting down photos, trying to decide what will work best for the story, getting side-tracked by interesting but irrelevant slideshows…it’s time consuming to say the least. I can spend a whole afternoon “writing” and only have jotted for two lines of dialogue the whole time.


Next time I want to write a globetrotting supernatural tale set forty years in the past, someone stop me. Please.

Arial view of Parque Gulliver in Valencia, Spain.

* An important aspect of choosing a setting is to go for the more interesting locale. While it doesn’t need to be eccentric (unless that’s what the scene calls for) some places are just more interesting. When I originally wrote the last scene of chapter three, I’d set it in an office. But, is having an important decision made by a group of suited men sitting in a conference room really so original? I went in a different direction and thought to set it on a playground, and just in case playgrounds in Spain (where the scene takes place) are drastically different from playgrounds in America, I did a google search, and looky what I found! From conference room to a playground in the shape of a famous literary character. It does pays to go the extra mile, doesn't it?


  1. Parque Gulliver sounds really awesome. I can't wait to hear more about your book. And yeah...setting can be a deal breaker. Far too many ppl underestimate its power.

  2. I think there should me more parks modeled after literature. How about a Slaughterhouse-Five funland?

  3. Great examples of interesting places for settings! I'm a very visual person and love having photos of the place I'm writing about, even if I know it. Yesterday, we did a detour to take pictures of the next scene for my book...but I hadn't charged the battery for the camera. Oh well, I scribbled some notes!

  4. But at least you saw it in person. That's always the most helpful.

  5. Land of Researchia. A Funny place where most writers enter... but few emerge unfortunately.
    Make it easy on yourself. Ask yourself what the scene is about, and just look for specific things that hinder your scene from moving forward.