Research might be my favorite part of a new story. I'm one of those weirdos you knew in high school who didn't groan at the thought of writing a research paper. If you were that way then, high-five! and welcome to the club. If you didn't enjoy it, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe I'll have to write a post for you later.
I have this idea for a story forming in my head. The characters are slowly revealing themselves to me through their drink choices, and their chosen occupations. One of them is a waitress in a bar. The other is a psychology major.
My biggest problems are that I have never actually been to a bar and I am not a psych major. I have a friend who is but I do not quite know where to start researching the life of a psychology major. The bar research was easy. I looked up different alcoholic drinks and what they said about that person. I have also seen many bar settings on TV shows and movies. I can definitely wing the setting for the first draft of this story.
However, I want my characters to feel alive from the beginning so that the editing process is not painful. I hate trying to bring flat characters to life. CPR will not work on a person who was dead from the beginning.
So I am feeling the need to research my psych major. He wants to go into behavioral analysis. I know nothing about behavioral analysis or what it takes to become one. I also have no idea what a psych major's train of thought is like or what they study in classes. I have a vague idea about what they study, because my creative writing major means I take a lot of English classes and somehow these overlap. I've heard of Zimbardo's Standford prison experiment as well as Milgram's electric shock experiment. Those two are the ones I have read about or watched videos for repeatedly. Others I am not as familiar with, such as Pavlov, whose name I know, but I don't really know why.
With all of this overwhelming me, where do I start? How do I know when I've done enough research? How can I recognize when I am simply using research to procrastinate on writing?
Here are tactics I've used to keep my research in check while still feeling like my characters are alive:
Those are my suggestions if you find yourself getting carried away in your research. I've used each of these and hope you find at least one of them helpful. They won't work for everybody all of the time, they don't even work for me all of the time. The biggest thing here is self-discipline. Ultimately you are the only one who has control over what you do, so you have to be disciplined enough to click on that little red x or listen to the ringing timer.
Do you have a hard time using research to avoid writing? What other ways do you have of limiting your research?
I'd love to hear from you in the comment section.
K. A. Jairl
My name is Kim and I'm glad you stopped by. This is where I post my triumphs and my downfalls as I fight the good fight of being a writer mom everyday.