13 Suggestions for When and What to Research for Your Story

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.


Research is vital to your story. Here are types of research and perhaps the best time to perform them.

Before the Draft 

To avoid major rewrites, perform these research tasks upfront.

1. A character’s past significant wound and how it affects him currently. A good resource is The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi..

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2. A character’s hobby or profession. Interview a person in the profession to collect stories and ideas for physical and emotional problems, humorous moments, dangers, and day-to-day expectations. 

Or search for day-in-the-life type interviews online. For instance, I found an interview of a caddy that allowed me write what a caddy does on and off the job, how he interacts with his pro, and how he thinks.

3. The setting, if it helps drive the story, could cause limits to the plot, or is considered a “character,” such as a museum, haunted house, or a jungle.

During a Draft

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Usually this research is a pause to go online to understand the meaning of a word, the name of an object, the character’s surroundings, and the like. 

I perform these look-ups because the scene’s plot, dialogue, or characterization depend on the research. I also fear I’ll forget to research the item later. 

4. Name of anything the character might use in his job or profession.

5. Times of sunsets, sunrises, tides, whether the place uses Daylight Saving Time.

6. Name of clothing items, such as a Henley shirt.

7. Popular names for a character’s year of birth to name a character’s contemporaries, family members, children.

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8. How-tos. I’ve watched videos for such activities as how to create pottery on a potter’s wheel, how to save a drowning person, and how to remove a cover and pages from a book.

9. How to spell words that aren’t in my physical or online dictionaries, such as gully washer.

10. Whether something is possible or not. For example, I wanted to know if a border collie could jump to the backseat of a truck. (Yes.)

11. When I can’t think of the right word. This is when I grab my Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.

After the Draft

For me, I don’t leave much research to after the draft. But I can understand a writer who’s on a roll, putting off research he knows will affect only one scene. And the research will have minimum effect on the play between characters. 

12. Character performs a one-time activity, such as changing a tire.

13. When I haven’t decided on a place for a scene that appears only once in the story. For example, I’m not sure what type of restaurant I want my character dining in and will need a few visuals and sounds when I do decide.

What are other types of research you do and when do you perform them? 

Buy Link

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

Wounded Heroines as Strong Female Characters

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I’ve heard readers dislike weak female characters. Recently, I published, “Show Your Character’s Wounds?” Together, these ideas may confuse writers. They may ask: Can wounded heroines be strong female characters?

Strong Female Character

First, I’ve compiled a list of traits I believe belong to a strong female character.

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♥ is multidimensional

♥ perseveres and endures; progresses forward in hope

♥ is independent but knows when to seek advice or help

♥ rises to challenges, whatever her environment is

♥ is intuitive, book smart, common-sense smart, or all three

♥ has at least one competency

♥ empathizes; helps others or contributes to society

♥ makes choices

♥ stands up for what she believes in

♥ is flawed but grows

♥ has inner strength to face trials and survive

♥ is essential to the story through her strengths and weaknesses

♥ is the lead; other characters support her

A Heroine With Wounds

A wounded heroine can meet the above criteria, but her wound has caused a flaw. It’s key she outgrows that flaw or doesn’t allow it to paralyze her.

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For many wounds, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi gives “OPPORTUNITIES TO FACE OR OVERCOME THIS WOUND.” I list three wounds and give examples of what a strong female character does to show she’s overcome her past wound.

 

HOME INVASION. When Ann was a child, a thief entered and stole precious items from her house. Early in the story, Ann obsesses over recovering a family heirloom after learning the sale was shady. Now, a fire demolishes Ann’s possessions, including the heirloom. But saving things never enters Ann’s mind while she rescues her daughter. As she hugs her daughter, she sees the heirloom as insignificant. Ann’s wound becomes a scar.

PHYSICAL ASSAULT. When Ella was a teen, a man attacked her. Leery of men’s intentions, Ella doesn’t go out with men alone. Then, she double-dates and enjoys Eric’s company. After dating Eric several times alone, her trust develops. She accepts a client’s dinner invitation to discuss business. He becomes drunk. At her car, he makes advances. She tells him to leave. He persists. She grabs his arm and warns him she’s learned how to defend herself. She asks if he wants to suffer the pain she’s ready to inflict. He staggers away. Ella learns there are safe men, and she can stand up to others who aren’t. Her wound shrinks to a scar.

A PHYSICAL DISFIGUREMENT. Kate has eye pupils shaped like keyholes (coloboma). She doesn’t mind people asking about her condition and is glad to explain that from birth a tissue piece is missing from each eye. What bothers her is when people won’t make eye contact or fail to listen to her because they’re focused on her pupils. Now, she teases her new boyfriend about his noticeable cowlick. He sighs and says, “I was waiting for you to go after my cowlick.” Kate realizes she’s no better than the people who frustrate her. Kate’s wound fades into a scar.

Wounded heroines can be strong female characters. Click to tweet.

How might a strong female character overcome being bullied in her past?

COOKING UP KISSES – has earned an Amazon #1 bestseller ribbon in two categories!

Five scrumptious e-book romance novellas, all for $0.99 or free on KindleUnlimited. Here’s the link.  Here are the blurbs:

 

 

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN IN A RED DRESS BY ZOE M. McCARTHY

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?

HUMMINGBIRD KISSES BY DELIA LATHAM

Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
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HEARTS ON THE HARBOR BY ROBIN BAYNE

Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?

 

 

HIS VALENTINE PROMISE BY DORA HIERS

Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…