People who have read the Tisha Ariel Nikkole series and the Retaliation series often tell me that the books seem so real. I’ve been asked many times if the books are, in fact, someone’s life. They aren’t but I think I know why they seem so real. I put a lot of book research into all of my writing. I don’t want to guess how it feels, or looks, I want to see it for myself and so when I write about it, it’ll seem real to the readers. So here is my short list of
5 Tips For Better Book Research
and some examples of what I did.
- Do Interviews: If your book or screenplay has a police officer in it, or a drug dealer or a stripper… Make a point to reach out to real police officers, real drug dealers and real strippers and ask them to talk to you. You don’t have to risk your life, but tell them that you’re an author and want to paint a story in a real way. You’d be surprised how many people would want to talk to you. I interviewed police officers for the Retaliation book. I interviewed hip hop artists, club owners, record label owners and journalists for the Tisha Arie
l Nikkole series.
- Take pictures: If your book or screenplay takes place in an office building, a club, or even a urban street, go to those places and take photos. Do not rely on your memory. Details will jump out from a photograph that you’d likely overlook in your memory. Even though I live in the DC area, I went to Southeast and took photos when I was painting scenery for Retaliation.
- Use Magazines for research: If your book or screenplay takes place in a location that you’ve never visited, look at magazines that cover those areas. Magazines can provide detailed information which give you a sort of authenticity. This same theory applies for luxury clothing items. If you have a character who wears luxury brands, find a magazine that covers luxury brands. Flip through the pages and see your character come to life. I used magazines like Vogue and the DuPont Registry to get more detailed ideas for luxury lifestyles for the Tisha Ariel Nikkole series. I did not rely on my own imagination or experience.
- Find Videos on Youtube: I love Youtube because it allows everyone to be themselves and share authentic videos from wherever they are. Youtube can be a great way to get a sense of culture, community, and scenery. For my book, Devious I did research on the Dominican Republic because that location was a major part of my storyline. I simply searched “Dominican Republic” and watched whatever videos came up.
- Experience it for yourself: I’m not saying that if your main character robs a bank then you should rob a bank. But, I am saying that if your main character likes blueberry muffins, try them. If your main character likes evening strolls on the beach, try it. Your personal experience can add another level to your characters and to your stories. (I was inspired to write this article because I’m in Hawaii doing research for an upcoming book in the Tisha Ariel Nikkole series.)
Quick Questions about other Research Alternatives:
- Can autobiographies or biographies substitute for an interview? Sort of… You can read them to get a sense of a person, but remember that book is being presented and marketed to secure customers. So, you can’t take autobiographies or biographies as the gospel truth. If books are your only source of research, be sure to read at least three to get a broader idea of whatever you’re researching so you won’t be reliant upon just one person’s opinion.
- Can documentaries help with research? Yes, but… You can and should watch documentaries but like books they are created with a specific purpose in mind. As a filmmaker with two documentaries under my belt, I can say that I definitely have an agenda when I am filming a project. Now, I want to be honest and truthful, but I have a specific goal. So, if you’re going to use documentaries as a primary source of research, watch at least three… Remember to include YouTube videos in your video research.
- Can magazine articles about topics be better than experiencing it for yourself? As writers we have to always remember that when we read other people’s work, it contains their opinion, their bias, their objective. So, if we want to be sure to be authentic in our own voice, we have to collect research from a variety of sources and present our projects accordingly.
I hope some of these tips help you in your writing. If you have any questions about writing, please let me know.
Peace & Love,