Monday, 5 January 2015

Research for Prompt Ideas

When I'm really stuck on a story idea, perhaps I'm writing to get the juices going or maybe I'm writing a project I've been waiting to write a while and all of a sudden, I'm blank...

What helps me out?

If I start with a story premise, aka the "Why" of a story, it's easy to get writing from there... here's what I mean.

The reality is that the "Why" gives you everything you need to know. The emotion, the motivation, and some might argue it is usually the basis of plot. What it doesn't give you is the particulars and that's easy! It's called research.

If I know why someone would like to buy a piece of pie, it will dictate everything about the pie, the person who made it, where they choose to purchase it and the emotion they get when they eat it. This is the story.

To write, you now need everything else: Who, what, where, how? This is filled in by figuring out the details.

Let's stick with pie!

Pie is delicious, but besides my few abysmal attempts at making some and sloshing it into a pan with granola and calling it a "Crumble" I don't know a whole lot about it. So, writing a short story about pie, I'd start with a google search.

This tells me a few things, gives me a slew of recipes, a Wikipedia entry and a lot of other great resources. Now, if you're a research guru, I already know what you're going to say: why are you encouraging online research to Wikipedia and other resources when much of the information out there is false, misleading or plagiarized!?

Truth is, I don't subscribe to the idea that any research is bad research because it all points you in a direction just make sure you check your facts. Wikipedia is great for research for one main reason, while the information within the article may be suspect, the sources backing the information can easily be verified. That is the great thing about Wiki! If I want to check who the foremost authority is on pies, I check Wikipedia because they will list them.

Let's reverse this a bit...


My daughter in 2010, scared because I made cross eyes for the first time.
She's not sure if she should laugh or scream.
Instead, do an image search. I find if it's too early to actually attempt to get the details straight and find that the details might bog me down in what is supposed to be an easy story, then I'll get some images off the web, post them and then use them to fuel my writing. I start asking the who, where, when, how questions and answer them by staring at the image and writing. Works every time.

Or try one of the many other types of searches..... Videos, Maps, and News are all intriguing options as well. The trick is keep it simple. Don't get bogged down or else you're off following a link from Wikipedia to a specialist site, on to a company that sells pie and then onward to a county known for their blue ribbon pies and you lose sight of why you were looking up pies at all!

Do you use research to fuel the creative fire?! Tell me how in the comments below.

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