Researching Your Story—Part II

train-4My first post a few months ago was called “Research—Imperative for Writers.” That’s a given. I gave a couple examples of what I’d researched for “Meghan’s Choice” and how I used them. I’m going to dig a little deeper and give you some research resources today. Click to Tweet. #storyresearch #storyworld #amwriting

actual photo 1871 Newton, KS

actual photo 1871 Newton, KS

Here’s a bit of the post for review.

In the case of “Meghan’s Choice,” I needed to research the event that I’m using for the climax of the story first. Then, the time period, the location, the technology, the literature, the government, medical science, geography, etc. You might think that’s a bit overwhelming. I didn’t do it all at once. I did it one step at a time, as I wrote the story, when I needed to know something.

I started with the event–I knew there was a gunfight in my hometown (The Gunfight at Hyde Park). I couldn’t remember when or anything else about it. So I searched on Google. Next, I researched the Santa Fe Railroad, engines, timelines, history, etc. I did all this from the comfort of my home office with my computer and the Internet. I learned about different steam engines at the time that they were identified by their wheels and how many there were. I researched the history of Wichita, Kansas and found they got the Santa Fe railroad to make them the railhead in 1872. That was quite a coup, and it changed forever the destinies of my hometown and Wichita.

Here’s where I’ll go deeper.

Not only did I research all the things mentioned in the previous paragraph, I had to research manners and customs. I wanted to go against type. That “type” being that there were only two ways a young woman set out on her own in Old West: 1) her parents died or 2) her father wanted her to marry a bad man because of financial obligations. Truthfully, it disgusted me. I’ve read more than one hundred books (and possibly more) in my genre of the Old West. And those two scenarios were all I found within those books if the protagonist was a young woman.

Clothing from time period

Clothing from time period

I wanted Meghan Gallagher to be different. I wanted her father to care and be concerned about her, yet firm enough to help her mature. I wanted to change her from a spoiled, privileged girl to a considerate and mature young woman ready for the responsibilities of marriage. I had travel alone without escort—someone generally not done in those days.

I also wanted her to court two men at the same time. This is also something not generally done in historical romances today. I had to look up manners and other customs that gentlemen were to know. I utilized this website for that: http://walternelson.com/dr/presence-of-ladies and found it interesting. I employed http://theantiquesalmanac.com/victorianrevivals.htm to familiarize myself with the different periods of Victorian furniture. I also needed to know how far medical science had progressed. I used this website: http://www.nejm.org/medical-archives/1869 to discover what Dr. Scott Allison would have had access to. To discover what people said about my hometown, so I could fictionalize it, I used this site and other Kansas and my hometown research websites.

Legends of America even had a picture of what my hometown looked like in 1871. http://www.legendsofamerica.com/. That was a godsend to me, plus what the newspapers at the time said about the series of gunfights. Their website has changed and expanded since I did my research a couple of years ago, but they’re still a great resource, especially for photos.

The principles here: it’s all about creating your story world…the setting, the people, the manners and customs, and society. Click to Tweet #amwriting #storyworld #storyresearch #amwriting Think about those things as you write.

What great Internet resources have you found? Leave a comment and let me know.

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