Monday, March 21, 2011

How Far Will You Go To Write A Manuscript? by Morgan Mandel

When I worked on my debut novel, Two Wrongs, my intention was to have one of the climactic scenes take place at Marshall Field's in Downtown Chicago, Illinois. It wasn't a great hardship to get there, since at the time I also worked Downtown. I took photos and examined the balconies, where a scene takes place between the hero and villain, and also another setting, at the Walnut Room there, the home of the Big Tree during Christmas Season. I also spoke to staff and wrote getting permission to use the place as a setting.

Again, I'll be doing some research for my new book, Forever Young-Blessing or Curse. This time I'm leaving my homestate, Illinois, and visiting the book's setting, Scottsdale, Arizona. I'll see the sights, take photos, and get some of the area's flavor so the book will seem more authentic. I haven't been there for a while and am looking forward to refreshing my memory.

I know many writers go to far reaches of the world for the sake of research. What about you? Have you ever gone somewhere to research a book, be it across town, to a store, a state, or country?

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career now 99 cents on


Milton Trachtenburg said...

I wouldn't go far to do research but what I do is record in notes and pictures all the places to which I go and it is many. I then use them in stories. I've spent time in every major city in the US, hundreds of small towns, plus London, Paris, and Rio De Janeiro. If that isn't enough to write a locale for a lifetime of material, then I don't know what would be. The expense of research is worthwhile only if you are working on a guaranteed contract.

I write using the following maxim that I made up:
Writing for publication is a belief that you are exempt from reality ... until the first rejection letter arrives.

I am a business person and I do not invest without a certain return. If I am going to spend $1000 for research, I would do so only if I was guaranteed to make at least 20 times that much. How many writers do you know who make $20,000 from each book they write?

Pamala Knight said...

You're so lucky, Morgan! Traveling to do research for your setting is a fabulous idea.

I'm lucky that in my paranormal writings, all of the "real" places I include in the manuscript, are places that I've actually visited before. The other places--the ones where I have to world build, are all a figment of my imagination. But sometimes they're based upon very real places. To convey some sense of authenticity, I tend to rely on the skills of the research librarian at my local branch for help.

Debra St. John said...

I haven't specifically traveled to Do research, but I've used places I've been to for setting for my books: Colorado, Missouri, the Caribbean. I always find it's easier to get things right if I've actually seen a place.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I usually stick to places I know and in my two series though based on real places I've changed the names. I always envy those who set their books in places like Hawaii and Paris and need to make a yearly research trip.


Maggie Toussaint said...

I like to get firsthand experience when possible. However, with the economy the way it is, I don't get a lot of exploratory traveling done these days. I read as much as I can about a place, try to talk to people who've been there, and generally tap into my feelings for other places in a similar vein, whether they're exotic, fun, spooky, moody, etc.

I guess you could say I'm an armchair traveler.


Morgan Mandel said...

I'm fortunate because the DH is going to Scottsdale to visit his Dad, so I can travel along and do my research.


Terry Odell said...

I love researching restaurants! I also took the Civilian Police Academy course for research purposes. And went to a firing range to see what it felt/sounded/smelled like to shoot a gun.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Cheryl said...

I haven't gone far yet. Most of my research is done on the Internet, but I think it's a good idea to visit any places you can to make the setting as realistic as possible for the reader.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Thanks to the internet I haven't had to get on a plane, but I would in a heartbeat. Although I get get the facts and pictures from the net it's not the same thing as walking the streets. Of course, since I'm writing a story that takes place over 70 years ago, a little more research is involved .

Ginger Simpson said...

Sometimes you don't have to go far to do research. One of my latest releases, First Degree Innocence was spawned by the experience as a Correctional Officer for one year. I got a really good feel for what it felt like to be an inmate, and after spending so many hours among them, you notice the smells, sights, and sounds. According to my reviews...I've done a good job of putting the reader behind bars. :)

Morgan Mandel said...

Being a Correctional Officer sounds like a scary job!


Mona Risk said...

I don't travel to do research, but I travel so much anyway. I take intensive notes and thousands of pictures. I also buy brochures to help. After visiting more than 50 countries, I stopped counting. I have books set in France, Russia, Greece, Egypt, and of course in Florida, Ohio, Mass., Washington DC.

P.I. Barrington said...

I'll take research as an excuse to travel anywhere, LOL! I use Las Vegas a lot because it's been like a second home since 1990 and I also used New Hampshire for a cozy mystery since that's where I vacationed from 1990 too! I'll go anywhere any time for my "research"! I also do online research and will buy textbooks on occasion. Sad but true.

Gloria Oliver said...

Most of my books are in fantasy settings so travel is not necessarily a requirement. For my first book "In the Service of Samurai" I did get an opportunity to travel to Japan, which was great as then I was able to verify and build on the feeling and flavor of the country by experiencing it first hand. Would love to do more of that sort of thing!

For my latest manuscript "Inner Demons" I used places from my past but also locations I'd never been to. One of the most wonderful things about living in this day an age is being able to use things like street view on google maps and websites for restaurants and hotels so you can 'see' what they look like and pretend as if you'd been there. Yay for Modern Times! :)

Mark W. Danielson said...

I once flew from Denver to Albuqueque, rented a car to drive to Los Alamitos, drove back to Albuquerque, and flew back to Denver in a matter of eight hours to confirm what I wrote about in The Innocent Never Knew was correct. The trip was worth it because several physical things had changed, and I had to make changes accordingly.