Get your finger out of your nose!
That’s not what I meant.
What I mean is that research can be more than just checking the facts, ma’am.
Example #1: Names
I am lousy with names. I write down one name and then forget it. And I am lousy at coming up with names on the spot. So when I’m reading a magazine or doing research for a project (wiki-walk anyone?) I write down names that I can use later.
Example #2: Story seeds
Sometimes an idea for a story pops up in my mind while reading an article or book. For example, I read a piece of news about a kid falling down the mine shaft. But what was that kid doing there in the first place? What happened to the kid afterward? Yes, the idea is not original, but the story you spin out of it is all your own.
Example #3: Location, Location, Location
Research on any subject matter tends to unearth a lot of interesting locations; towns, cities, battlefields, castles, mountains, the works. By tracing the history of a given location you can unearth ancient names for heroes, cultures and artifacts which you can then use in your writing.
Example #4: Themes
Themes are the building blocks of characters, plots and locations. It what gives your story narrative depth. Readers love to explore the multiple layers created by the themes in your book. As you do your research, you are guided by a theme and will also uncover many more. What motivated the King to murder his whole family? Why did the towns folk rebuild their village near an active volcano? What drove the soldier to surrender in the face of the enemy? Why do people remember the star crossed lovers centuries after their death? The themes tie in nicely with mining your research material for story seeds.
With these examples in hand you can transform your research from a chore to a powerful tool in your writing toolbox. And don’t be afraid if your research takes you (and your WIP) into unexpected places. Wherever you end up might just be the place you needed to be and if not, it may the the starting point for a new story.
Q: Have you ever encountered any of the examples above while doing research? Are they other things that have come about or discovered while doing said research?