The great search for what to write about, better known as “Research Hell”

The-writer2-e1374715549958As both an instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS Trained Killer!) and a guest speaker to high school students about writing, I always stress one thing above all … RESEARCH! Youcan’t write the next “Great American Novel” unless you do your research and to that I say, thank God for Google!

I don’t know how I survived high school, college and military “A” school without the internet. I can remember looking things up in gigantic volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica, both at home and at the local library, whenever I had a paper due. Even though they were outdated after a few years, you had to reference them in practically everything you wrote about.

After the internet and home computer came online, the best source for research was Microsoft Encarta. I remember buying it for my home computer so my kids had an available reference tool without having to go online. In the days of 56 kbs, the internet was slow moving and tedious, especially when all we had was dial-up.

Research is the key for any writer, and not just about your subject matter. For both Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, I based a lot of my story on my own imagination and characters I played during my informative years of Dungeons and Dragons. That’s when I discovered I had a lot of holes in my story that I needed to fill.

So I began researching mythologies of every culture from Norway to Germany and Britain to Africa. I learned how to curse in Viking and used a latin translator program (thank you University of Notre Dame) as the basis for spells. I can’t even begin to imagine how long I would have had to spend in my local library, looking through book after book, tearing through the card catalogue to find every last bit of research I needed.

That’s why I said “thank God for Google!” As much as many of us hate the “Big Brother” aspect of the internet giant, they are an invaluable tool for the writer. Add to that, because you always need to find different ways to say words in a story to avoid repitition.

Most of all, remmeber where every story begins … in the heart and soul of the writer. As I’ve said before, the Forever Avalon series came from recurring dreams after long hours of D&D while deployed thousands of miles from my family. It was in that emotional void that I found the story I was waiting my whole life to tell.

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