Making it Real — Research Before You Write!

By Pamela S. Meyers

Although the Internet has made it easier to research settings for our stories, I love traveling to the settings of my stories for research. I get a feel for the area far more than a street-view picture on the computer can never do.

Several years ago, I wrote Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which is set in my hometown. Since the story takes place in 1933, the best place to gather information about the town back then was to review microfilms of the weekly newspaper from that time. Fortunately I only live about an hour’s drive away because I spent a lot of time in front of a microfilm machine at the town library. 

I learned a lot by reading the store ads and articles. I even made note of what movie was playing on the exact week my story was taking place and used it in a scene. All that I learned added texture to the story and made the town come alive to the reader.

My current release, Second Chance Love, is set at a rodeo that takes place in southern Illinois every Labor Day weekend. I’ve attended the rodeo yearly for over ten years, but sitting in the stands as a fan couldn’t be my only resource. Last September while at the rodeo, I paid attention to as many details as possible to have the description correct. This included going to the rodeo arena one morning when it was empty and video taping it. We also drove the routes my characters would take to get from one place to the other in the surrounding area to make sure I had the routes correct. I once read a book set in the area where I live and it was very apparent the author had not researched well when she had the protag drive from one location to another in an impossibly short time.

A fun part of my research was visiting the eateries my characters go to where I took pictures of the restaurant interiors and sampled the offerings. Nothing like eating steak and down-home fried chicken all for the sake of research.

What stories have you read that are set in a place you are familiar with? Did the author get the facts correct? If you are an author, what fun places have you traveled to to research your story?

I paid attention to details to have the description correct.~ Pamela S. Meyers (Click to Tweet)

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and her novella, What Lies Ahead, in the collection, The Bucket List Dare, now available at Amazon. Second Chance Love from Bling!, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, is releasing January 24, 2017. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, Pam can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.