This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
You can listen to Anna’s podcasted novel over on her websitewww.annabellwrites.com and follow her on twitter @annabell_writes
Now if I was a famous published author and I was able to set my books in tropical locations and claim my research trips back as tax deductible expenses then I would absolutely love doing research. But for me as a non published author I find the research side of things the most difficult.
I see it as difficult to not get sucked into writing novels. I’ve thought in the past that it is better for me to be writing a novel that I can submit to agents rather than spending hours and hours researching a character who may only see the inside of my hard drive. I’ve tended to play it safe with novels I’ve worked on previously, writing characters that do generic jobs (which I barely mention) and set in locations I know well. But with my latest work in progress my main character goes on a business trip, and (unfortunately for me) something work related goes wrong on that trip…
Now I know nothing about business having predominantly worked in the public sector. I wrote the first three chapters with my main character – Amy – working for ‘Fitzroy Global’ which for those three chapters was an unspecified multinational company that was an investment bank. By the time I got to chapter four, this needed to be fleshed out; I needed a back story and I needed a clue about what my Amy did on a daily basis.
I picked up the phone to my brother who works at an investment bank in the City (luckily!). I told him about my latest work in progress, which I half expected him to laugh about. We’ve been on a couple of mass family holidays over the last few years and in the moments when my niece has not demanded to play games on my ‘puter I’ve managed to write a bit. It is not like my brother hasn’t seen me write, but I’m not sure if he sees me as a serious writer. So when I was telling him about my book I was half expecting him to not take it seriously.
But he did take it seriously, and not only that he got quite into it. He started asking me about Amy, what was her personality like. Was she confident, outgoing, slightly loud, and therefore more likely to be suited to being a trader? Or was she quiet, head down, slightly geeky and would therefore be more an analyst? Did I want the character to be working hard, playing hard, going to glitzy places?
By the end of the forty minute phone call, not only had he given me an insight into what Amy did, but he’d made me define who she was a person. What she was like, what the essence of her character was.
We then went onto what do investment banks do and I explained to my brother about the conflict in the plot relating to the business and asked him how realistic it would be. And again instead of him laughing he told me about actual true stories in the City of cases similar to what I’d been describing. He gave me company names and stories to go and research further. He then came up with an idea about how my main character could unravel the conflict. It was inspired!
I came off the phone and immediately looked up the stories he’d suggested. And it was amazing. They fitted perfectly as a backdrop to my main story. For once, research didn’t seem such a waste of time.
I’m now well over half way through the work in progress, and I couldn’t have done it without the research. My subplots involving the business would have been half hearted and unbelievable if I hadn’t looked into it. If I get this book published then I guess I’ll be owing a big fat mention in the acknowledgements to my brother. And if I don’t then at least I’ll have learnt the lesson of getting things from the horses mouth. By speaking to those in the area I’m researching, I’m only going to improve my books.