Research Tips for NaNoWriMo Success


NaNoWriMo Clock

This week’s tip to win National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) focuses on research and background. I think this may be my favorite part.  Since I have a rough story idea, I know a few of the players I’ll need developed.  Now I get to start making them up.  Although, sometimes a character brings to mind a real person I know, and bits and pieces of that personality creep into my background for that player—which can be very fun for the writer!

When I’m naming a character, especially a protagonist/antagonist or another fairly key role, I like to give them a very meaningful name. You know, like a hard-nosed cop named Steel or an ultra feminine southern belle named Magnolia.  Okay, maybe those are a bit trite, but you get the idea.  It’s good to have those names personifying the traits you are trying to convey, even if it’s very subtle.

Don’t forget about locations. Will your story be in a real or fictitious town?  I like fictitious towns because you can really make up whatever you want and it’s a good way to use up some word count.  With a real town you may get bogged down in trying to be accurate—NaNo suicide.  Once you start worrying about making things precise you’ll start burning time.  Even if you think you’ll just go online and check “one thing—real quick”, the temptations are there.  Do all your research in October for character names and locations.

Another benefit of planning in October is learning some lingo. If your character is a cop, lawyer, doctor, etc., you are probably going to want to know some key words and phrases.  Also, things like background, schooling, schedules, whatever makes your story believable to those actually in that profession.  Or if they’re going to have a certain habit, disease, or even hobby you need to be knowledgeable enough to write accurately about it.

I write out very elaborate descriptions of my characters, right down to make of their vehicle. Not all the info makes it in, but it beats trying to come up with stuff during the writing process.  One tip I’ve come up with when a house pops up in the story; use a house with which you are familiar.  For example, in a story I wrote about a burglar, I needed to be able to really paint a picture of the interior of those houses as he crept through.  I used my home’s layout and some of my friend’s and neighbor’s homes so I had a clear picture in my mind as I was writing.  It made it easier for me and very descriptive for the reader.

I don’t like to use names of real (living) people in my stories if I can avoid it. If I look up a character and find someone with that name, I make a few changes.  I’ll run the search again after changing around a couple of letters or adding/dropping an “e” at the end.  Sometimes you can come up with a whole new name by spelling it phonetically.  I had to do that with one of my main characters for this year.

I have two words of caution about names. First, make sure the name you choose is accurate for the time period in your story.  You know, there were probably not a lot of women named Ashley in Medieval times, for example.  Second, if your readers have to stumble over the pronunciation of a name every time they read it, it makes the book less enjoyable.  Every time.  Happy writing!





One response to this post.

  1. […] and which people I wanted readers to cheer for, I assigned them names (more on name selection in a previous post) and began writing their […]


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