Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Research Trips: Don't Leave Home without a Writer Friend

by Rachael Phillips
A research journey to the setting of your novel adds authenticity nothing else can match.  
If someone shares your adventure, however, the fellow explorer should understand she/he is traveling with a writer, not a normal person. Consider inviting one of two kinds of people: the parenting type, who will ensure you wear a sweater and will bail you out of jail; or someone as certifiable as you.

A spouse may fit both profiles. He will lend you his jacket to prevent sniffles because he doesn’t want to pay for medical visits and prescriptions. As for insanity—he married you, didn’t he?
However, spouses cherish the odd notion that trips should be fun for them, too. A morning spent at the local Chamber of Commerce may not rate at the top of their bucket lists.       

Other writers, however, understand these things. No one else in the world will:
  • Stop her car in the middle of the highway so you can leap out and examine someone’s lawn gnome, the perfect one to conceal cocaine in your next mystery.
  • Serve as your getaway driver when the lawn gnome’s owner comes raging out with a shotgun.
  • Assure you that every literary brain needs three dips of mint chocolate chip to function at maximum creativity. 
  • Fish you out of the river when, attempting to take pictures of the spot for your characters’ first kiss, you take an unplanned dive.
  • Discuss with you over dinner the best ways to kill off your novel’s rich old lady. When the restaurant server, having overheard your plans, decides to play hero and capture a potential murderer, who else will use her taekwondo to subdue him?
  • Only a writer friend will agree that afternoon naps sharpen senses for better evaluation of the setting.
  • Tell you that, of course, you don’t snore (while yawning).
  • Affirm that buying attire, jewelry, and shoes for your heroine in local boutiques will strengthen her impact in your novel.
  • Will help you stalk the pizza delivery guy who looks exactly like your hero.
  • Convince the hotel manager that she’s your keeper and you’re basically harmless—except when hungry.
  • Will brainstorm with you without questioning whether you have a brain.
  • Finally, a five-star writer-companion prays for you and your book—no matter what you’ve put her through that day.
I want to take this opportunity to throw cyber roses to my novella partners, Becky Melby, Cynthia Ruchti, and Eileen Key, who performed most of the above functions when we joined forces in Wisconsin to write A Door County Christmas (2010), and our just-released collection, Cedar Creek Seasons.

How about you? Has anybody accompanied you on a research trip and lived to tell about it?






  1. I've yet to really take a research trip, though there's one I'm thinking of. Actually, my wife is also a writer, but her place for research would be a Christian conference.


  2. Okay, it's definite--I want to go with you next time. My husband, sweetheart though he is, just doesn't have the right, uhm, mojo for research trips.

    Great post.

    1. LOL, Liz! Mine is great at brainstorming, but you're right; there are just some aspects of the job he doesn't get :-)