Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to make the most of your research trip

First and foremost - try to pick a city where you have a friend or acquaintance who is willing to play tour guide.  It saves you from wandering aimlessly around town.

Second – try to do your research on the net/magazines, etc. before you arrive so you can have a plan of attack.  When I was in Savannah I knew I needed a house and an office for my character and I wanted them within walking distance.  I needed to see and smell (Yes, it was springtime) the city.  i.e. they have horse-drawn carriages and with horse comes horse smells.

Third – Give yourself permission to be a tourist.  I went into a quaint little bookshop and the sales person recommended a great book on Savannah complete with pictures.

Fourth – go to the visitor’s center.  They have the best grid maps and they’re always helpful when it comes to distances.  i.e. I needed to know how long it would take to go from downtown Savannah to Bonaventure cemetery.

Fifth – go hungry.  Taste the foods to get a feel for what it’s like – Leopold’s was the greatest ice cream parlor and restaurant and the owner happens to have been a movie producer, so they have lots of movie memorabilia in the store from films like The Big Chill to Mission Impossible III.

Sixth – get a good street map and mark points of interest.  I had to find the hooker hangout, so we drove that street.  I’d have to consult my notes, but I think North of Gaston is the seedy part of town.

Seventh – take a gazillion pictures.  I always photograph the cross streets, then take pictures so I know where the shots were taken.  And while I’m at it, invest in a good camera.  I have a DSLR, so I can snap non-blurry shots with ease.  But if you don’t have a decent camera, get out of the car and snap away.

Eighth – If possible, get many angles.  We went out on Amy’s boat so I got to see the harbor and the waterfront with all the antebellum houses from the water.  I also learned that those houses face backward from the road, with the majestic fronts only viewable by sea.

Ninth – Find something unique about the setting.  In Savannah I found the steep steps down to the cobblestone walkway along the Riverwalk to be a real challenge.  Hat’s off to Bob Fetzer for finding the elevator back up to street level.  The other thing I noticed?  People are really friendly.  They say hello or good afternoon/morning to everyone they pass.  I also learned that parking is a real bitch.  And that you need a permit in most of the areas around Forsythe Park.

Tenth – take some time off just to let it all soak in.  I was lucky enough to have fab author Amy J. Fetzer as my hostess and my tour guide, so I was all set.  We even snuck in a brainstorming session for my value-added Finley short.

If you’re traveling to another city, make sure go prepared, have a plan, and use the voice notes feature on your phone – so much easier than a pad and paper.

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