Monday, 18 June 2012

Research, or Googling Hot Guys and their Houses

Research is one of my favourite things about writing, and not just because it involves googling pictures of hot guys. OK, it is mainly because it involves googling hot guys, but there are other great things about it too.

My most recent research enterprise has been adding details about my hero's, Ethan’s, home. I could see his house (a ridiculously beautiful mansion in the hills of Los Angeles, in case you were wondering) really clearly in my mind, but when I tried to describe it, all that came out on the page were wishy-washy generalities. It was really classic… the furnishings were beautiful but uncomfortable-looking... it was tasteful but soulless…. blah, blah, blah… What I really needed to help me to describe the pictures in my head was a real-life picture. The images in my mind aren’t photographs: sometimes they’re blurry, sometimes they’re made up more of feelings, emotions and swathes of colour rather than the specifics of soft furnishings and ornamental vases. I needed something physical, tangible, to zoom in on.

Which is where google comes into it. I have spent hours and hours trawling real estate websites looking for Ethan’s house. In the process, I’ve got to see that there are some seriously huge, seriously expensive and seriously 'interesting' (read 'ugly') houses out there. But eventually I found a mishmash of rooms that I felt matched the pictures I had in my mind. And, refreshingly, with these pictures, when I tried to see how many cushions were arranged on the sofa, or what type of fresh flowers the interior designer had arranged on a sideboard – they were right there.

And along the way, I got a real insight into my character. I knew instinctively which houses were right for Ethan and which he would have scoffed at. So I learnt that he doesn’t live in the most expensive house that he could afford, because something a little more modest suits him better, and this tells me about more than just real estate. When you sit back and think, ‘Could he really live with that marble flooring?’ you’re not really talking interior design. You’re asking what his values are. And any questions that give you cause to sit and think about your characters’ core principles, what drives them, what makes them tick, is going to make your story stronger.

So, house research done, I feel like the picture I have of Ethan’s six-pack is going a bit blurry, maybe I’ll just have a wee google. For research purposes, of course…

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