I could get lost in research. I’m especially fond of obscure facts that really aren’t relative to what I actually need. So I’ve had to develop a system.
After I’ve plotted my book, I figure out what I need to know – what gun will fire under water; clothing; maps; landmarks; historical information on my setting – whatever I need to bring the story to life.
I’m very fond of local tourism board websites. They tend to be full of details and directions and often have pictures (I’m really fond of visuals).
I love real estate brochures. I can take real estate listings and pick a home for my character based on price, location and amenities.
Nordstroms.com is another favorite. I can dress any character in high-end attire.
Macys.com is another one – I can dress a character in clothing available to the masses.
Weather.com is invaluable. Spring in Seattle is very different from spring in Palm Beach.
If possible, I like to visit the location. If this isn’t possible, I like to subscribe to a local newspaper so I can get the flare and flavor of a particular area. When I wrote a seven-book series set in Montana, I subscribed to a dinky weekly but it was invaluable.
I do research as I need it during the writing process. This keeps me focused on what I need.
I will often strike up a conversation with a local. The internet makes that relatively easy and it lends credibility if you can have your characters speak the native tongue – Coke can be coke-a-cola, soda, pop, or coke; New Yorkers stand on line instead of in line. The lingo changes depending on the location of your story. Get it right or be prepared to get letters.
My words of wisdom . . . don’t get bogged down in the details. Include just enough information to make the setting, clothing or language realistic. And by all means, avoid the info dump. Just because you discovered something in the course of your research doesn’t mean it has to show up on the page.
Happy writing . . .