Tanara McCauley

Culturally Imagined Stories

The Research Pill


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A novel starts off with an idea. If the idea is a good one, it takes root, causes a sort of anxious excitement that makes my fingers itch and stirs up feelings for these yet-to-be-developed characters.

I can spit out the first chapter in no time. Maybe even plot out the whole story in a very rough, quite pedestrian version of what will be the synopsis one day.

But the characters, at least in their earliest stages, are mere mock-ups of whom they will become. The setting is vague and undefined. The plot a loosened version of the overall journey. Because before anything of value can take shape, I’ve got to do the research.

And research, depending on the type, is not always my friend.

Get a person talking about their field of expertise (if, of course, that field is not uh…less than entertaining), watch their eyes light up, hear them tell jokes appropriate to their line of work. I love that kind of thing.

And being a story groupie, if I can get my hands on a novel that deals with my topic, I’m good to go.

Hands-on experiences? Sign me up.

Nonfiction litanies, statistics, histories, political climates, psychological analyses of personality profiles, numbers, dates, etc., etc.,…

The second hand on my watch gongs like a grandfather clock: when…will…this…be…over………………then it’s, “Good night and God bless.”

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of what I learn is fascinating, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. It’s just hard for my brain to focus long when I’m reading something that’s not telling a story. Even with nonfiction books I latch on to the parts of personal testimony and anecdotes. The rest I read in doses.

Despite the weakening effect research has on my enthusiasm, I press on, searching out the details to make each story as realistic, entertaining, and impactful as possible.

I just drink lots (really…LOTS) of coffee in the meantime.

Your turn: What one thing poses an obstacle to your progress? How have you overcome it?


4 responses to “The Research Pill”

  1. hey Tanara!!! well to answer your question (if i got it correctly) I like reading when it is fluid and interesting, if it starts to get to huh?? then that’s it for me. I don’t like very long novels because of that 🙂

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    • How’s it going Daniellajoe?!? I still haven’t plunged into a crochet/knitting project yet. Can you guess why from my post, lol. I shelved the book in favor of your YouTube suggestion but that 5 minute block hasn’t found a slot on my schedule yet :-). As for novels, I used to read every word of every one I started. Now with time constraints & the need to read constantly since I write, I’ve got less patience for that kinda thing :-).

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  2. Hi Tanara, I found this interesting even though I’m not a fiction writer (yet, anyway!) The biggest block for me, when I’m starting something, is just the fact of thinking about it – once I’ve started, and got the first couple of lines written, I’m usually set on the path. I can well imagine how the research element of your work is particularly daunting – I would be the same, because I would feel I’d have to know every last detail before commencing. What I think is important to remember, is that if you’re a natural story-teller, you have the secret key… the rest will come with time and patience!

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    • How did I miss this comment? Thanks for sharing, Jo! Your research skills are excellent by the way. I love the rich histories you share behind your travels and photos. You have a knack of relaying non-fiction in the most creative, engaging ways. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Coming from you it’s highly regarded :-).

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