Thursday, January 20, 2011

Now I Know Everything

Okay, not really.

But I know a little bit about a lot of things.  This week I've been talking about my process of writing what I know.

My main character in Lodestar, Derek, is many things.  He's a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, an astronaut who serves on the ISS, a fencer, an archer, a son, a hero.

A good chunk of the novel takes place in outer space.  There are scenes on the ISS, scenes in the NASA training center, a scene in a fighter plane, scenes in restaurants.

When not in space, my characters are in Texas, Florida, D.C., Atlanta.

I've been to Disneyworld and Washington, D.C.  I've never set foot in Texas or Georgia.  I've never been on the vomit comet, I've never been inside the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.  I've never been out of Earth's atmosphere.

So, how can I write about any of this?

Back to Wikipedia!  Woot!

Seriously, city information is great here.  Easy-to-read lists of local restaurants, demographic and geographic information.  Stuff that doesn't necessarily make it onto the tourism site for the given city.

Lists of Air Force bases and stations, what wings are stationed there, etc.

A list of fencing terms, archery terms, college information that is readily accessible and in one place instead of having to search through hundreds of pages on a university's website.

My next step after all this was to head for the bookstore.  Three books became my indispensable companions in writing:

Astronomy for Dummies (which then also led to Wikipedia for even simpler terms for some things).
Space Exploration for Dummies (taught me everything I need to know about NASA)
The Civilian's Guide to the U.S. Military (helped me make sure all interactions were up to snuff)

I used the website "How Stuff Works" for additional research.  I sat in the cockpit of an old fighter plane and talked the guide's ear off about the dials and controls.  She told me about updates to the interior for modern planes.  She asked me if I've been in a flight simulator.  (Said no, but inside I was screaming "How do I get in one of those?")  I desperately want to go on the vomit comet.  I'd love to take fencing lessons and archery lessons to have a good feel for the motions.

But I can research what I don't know from personal experience.


  1. Hooray for research. I did a ton of research on fighter combat, because my MC is a fighter pilot, too. (And guess what? His name is Derek. LOL.)

  2. Sounds like your research is really thorough :) If it's something I've never done, especially like an action, I love to get the feel of it from a class. If I can't get into a class, like fencing, I check out the youtube videos and watch the movements. I think it's really helpful.

  3. Great post Stephanie. It's always a good reminder for me that you don't have to know about the places your stories are set. I've only ever been in Australia & New Zealand and I'd love to set a story in other parts of the world.

  4. Research can be so exciting and exhausting at the same time. I just found your great blog! If you have a chance, please visit mine

  5. Thanks for sharing all your research tips.


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