Prepping for NaNoWriMo: Step Five – Research
You’d think you’d be ready to write the in-depth summary after Four Steps, but there’s one more step: Research.
When I say research (anyone else get a headache when they hear that word?), I’m not telling you to spend the next eight years researching every single topic you might encounter in your story. Nope. This is a different kind of research. You no longer need to feel like this:
First, cast your story. What do the characters look like in your mind? If you have no idea, give this some thought. What is their personality? What are they wearing? Are they like someone you know? Do they look like an actor or a character in a movie? Find a bunch of pictures for your characters.
Second, be a location scout and prop artist. Find pictures of places, homes, important props…everything that is essential as part of your story. The images don’t have to be exact, but should have elements that cry out to you.
Next, create a folder for each character and location. (I love using Scrivener for this – they have the best inexpensive writer’s format for keeping all your research together and easily accessible while writing.) Collect the images that belong in each and put them in with descriptions and notes that will help you remember why you chose them. If you find three or four that you can’t decide between, that’s okay -put them all in! In each character (and location) folder you can also have a separate document describing them, their personality, their likes and dislikes, back story. The more you know about your characters, the more they’ll come to life.
Be careful, though. Don’t let the research portion take over your life! It doesn’t have to take forever. In fact, the more practiced you become, the faster you can finish this portion. Some authors complete this step in a couple of hours.
The Final Part of the Research Step – The Voice Journal
The final phase of this step is to create Voice Journals for each character. The Voice Journal is written in First Person and becomes a stream of consciousness from their viewpoint. Often, you’ll end up writing their back story and finding out things you didn’t know you knew about them. The Voice Journal doesn’t need to be long – often one page or less will do – but it should sound like them and tell us how they think.
The more in-depth this phase, the better your characters and your locations are going to be, the more they’ll come alive for your reader, and the more confident you will be as you sit down the 1st of November to hammer out those 50,000 words. And the more complete the research, the more ready you are to move to Step Six!