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Posted September 24, 2011
MAKE THEM THINK YOU'VE BEEN THERE -- PART II
Guest Blogger - Jennifer Hudson Taylor
Local Research for Settings
Typically, authors head straight to the General Reference section of the library. If you really want the history, culture, climate, dialogue, slang, and intimate knowledge of a specific location, you need to hit their Genealogy Reference section. Sometimes this area is separate from General Reference.
You don't need to research a particular family history, although you can. What you need to do is research the people in the area. Browse through a few family history books, local census records and you'll see the unique surnames that are present in the area. Some families are notorious for using biblical names in the south-even today. What differences would a new individual from the west have from someone that has grown up and lived in the heart of Alabama their whole life? This kind of research will give you characterization ideas, conflict for your story, and intimate details you won't find anywhere else.
What strange laws were in existence in your time period for the area? Are they still on the books? How would that law influence or change your story? Can it build more conflict for your characters, or create a loop hole to get one of them out of trouble?
Genealogy rooms are full of historical maps showing the progression of the change of time. What might a present day contractor find if he started clearing land for a new building, residential neighborhood, or a power plant?
Are there any unclaimed lands in the area that the local government has overlooked confiscating? Any families still own water rights? Browse through old obituaries or newspaper headlines and find a goldmine of unique story ideas. How could these be translated into a present day story? How could a historical event affect your current story?
Read old letters that families may have written to each other. What kind of language did they use? Join a few online groups in the area and listen to the way they talk in their emails. You'll get a flavor for the dialogue in the area.
Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor offers a workshop entitled, The Art of Research Today & Yesterday.
Be sure and visit her website where you will find lots more writers tips and all things Scottish
If you would like to comment or have research questions about this article, email me email@example.com