Posts Tagged ‘story ideas’

Why Novelists Need Research

November 12, 2018

I still use my Encyclopaedia Britannica for quick research. Although I write science fiction, I want my human characters to be grounded in reality. Even my alien worlds and characters benefit from references to what we know (or think we know). Then an on-going project showed me just how valuable research is for novelists.

My husband and I are writing biographies of our families. Since just about everyone was a tinkerer or maker, he thought including a section on tools would be useful. Last week he started cataloging all the cameras we had inherited, and he decided to research each model. He wanted to know when it was produced (to narrow down when our family member might have bought it), how popular it was, what special features it had, anything that would help him understand why the camera was prized enough to make its way to us.

While doing this research, he remembered a narrow, pocket-size camera his father once owned. He discovered that it was marketed as a compact, convenient camera for families to use, but it was picked up by both the U.S. and Soviet spy community because it was easy to conceal and the optics were superb.

When I heard this story, I thought of building a story on the undiscovered spy in an otherwise normal family. Yes, the story has been told before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use the plot, and now I have a tool – Ian’s camera – to use as a prompt.

That is the fun of research. You never know where it could lead you, what story it could inspire, or where that story could take you.

Me and my camera, a long time ago

Luck and wisdom!

Never Walk and Think At The Same Time

September 24, 2018

The mantra for hiking in treacherous territory is, “If you’re looking, don’t walk. If you’re walking, don’t look.” I never knew it applied to going down the stairs in my own house. Apparently it does. I was thinking of the next bit of cleaning I had to do, and missed the bottom step on the landing. My ankle took a beating, but at least nothing broke.

My ankle in an air cast

I resurrected another saved object – the air cast in the picture is one I used 30 years ago when I broke my ankle practicing a small leap for ballet class. That was embarrassing for so many reasons, not the least because I was taking my first ballet lessons as an adult. My mom never enrolled me as a child. She was afraid it would damage my feet. She was right. One of these days, I’m going to create a story around my dickey ankles and the many times they’ve rolled, collapsed, buckled, and otherwise betrayed me.

What you can make from dowels and stuff

Another story I have to write is about the magic rooms where we keep our collection of odd but useful stuff. As I tried to take a step after the fall on the stairs, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to put any weight on it at all that day. I casually mentioned to my husband that a cane would help. The light went on in his eyes, and within the hour he had made me the cane pictured above from scrap wood and a leftover furniture cup that he had in his workshop. I’m proud of being a pack rat, and someday will find a way to incorporate it in a story.

Luck and wisdom!