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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Sandra Kay

RESEARCH

Writing stories that take place in different parts of the world presents challenges when it comes to scene description, dialect, weather conditions, and maybe even style of dress. If we, as writers, have never been to the area we want to locate our story in, how do we go about obtaining the necessary information?

For us lucky enough to be living in the “Technology Age” the internet is the obvious answer. In fact, we are so used to having data at our fingertips, that I wonder what we would do without it. I can’t even imagine how writers used to be able to get the details they needed to write their scenes correctly. Trips to the library; which I still do on occasion. Phone calls to experts; which I do. Talking to people who have been to the area I’m writing about; yes, I do that as well. But my favorite means of research is Google. I can Google almost anything and get a darn good answer.

I once wrote a story with a scene involving a helicopter accident. I have never flown in a helicopter, so my knowledge was pretty much zero. I “Googled” helicopter accidents and was amazed at how much info I received. There is actually a site that gives a list of accidents, when and how they occurred, the damage caused, and injuries to the parties onboard. I have a file on my computer just for helicopter accidents, because once something is researched, I’m certainly not going to delete it!

I have a story in mind that takes place in Alaska. Again, I’ve never been to Alaska, so had to depend on research for details. Since I wanted my story to take place during the hunting season, and I wanted a bush pilot to fly my cast of characters into a remote site, I turned to the internet. I searched for hunting schedules, weather conditions, protected species, and the accepted opinion in Alaska regarding hunting in general. I was able to obtain a wealth in information. That story is still simmering on the back burner.

My Brandon Cattle Ranch series takes place in Texas. Although I was born in California, my family heritage is Texan. Unfortunately, the last time I was in Texas I was only fourteen, so I needed to do some research to add to my memories. For this series, I not only researched on the internet, but I obtained a Tour Guide Book on Texas from the Automobile Club, and I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce in Waco, Texas. The Chamber of Commerce was wonderful, sending me a complete file of information about Waco and the surrounding area. Maps, an article about the plants and trees indigenous to the area, information about cattle ranching and stockyards, highway and river info, and, of course, weather.

Something important to remember, is thanking the people, who so generously give up their time to answer questions like the Waco Chamber of Commerce did. I hope that with their help I was able to get all of my Texas facts straight in Heart of Stone.

2 comments:

Danielle Thorne said...

I love reaching minute details of simple every day things; they are so important and really give a story a whole other dimension. The best part is you can explore avenues you research in person and write them off on your taxes, too. Good luck with your book and thanks for a great blog!

Sandra Kay said...

Hi Danielle. That's one of the avenues I neglected to include, and its a biggie. I traveled to Israel last year, and came back home with a notebook full of details. I even came up with a sketchy idea for a book. Thanks for reminding us of the connection between research and tax write offs.