Archive for December, 2010

Geography, cont.

5. Landmarks. Buildings or statues of historical value to a community may say something about the psychological mystique of its inhabitants.

6. Shopping Centers. Small strip malls or large covered malls with big anchors like Sears, or Wal-Mart or both, tell us something about our community. For instance, strip malls with only one of a kind merchandise may denote a college or tourist community.

7. Amusements. Parks with different forms of recreation from row boating to cat fishing, gambling¬† casinos and river boats, health spas with hot springs… and on and on tell us about the community, their economic dependency and their player part in the GNP.

8. Public transportation. (We’ve lived in towns so small that even a one car cab company couldn’t make a living, and not too many people could afford cars. Apparently they couldn’t afford the cab either.) Note the names and locations of terminals, airports, and the like.

9. Agriculture/horticulture. Find out what vegetation is predominant. How long is the growing season? In Vermont tomatoes are a once a year enterprise, while in South Carolina the gardener can probably scratch out two plantings. What type of trees do well? Flowers, both wild and cultivated, are a wonderful source of scent and color. (An aside I have to make: the tomatoes we grew in Vermont were the most wonderfully delicious we ever tasted. Even the ones we canned could be used in a salad. My sauces and salsas were the best ever.)

10. Domestic and farm animals/wildlife/bugs. Make notes never forgetting other life forms that share our earth, our story, or our scene.

11. Speech patterns, mannerisms, colloquialisms. Pay attention to the local vernacular. Sprinkling our story with this spice of uniqueness gives our reader the added advantage of travel.

Observation, note taking, organization of information, these are the main keys to successful research. Successful research is an essential ingredient in a story that lives.



1. Geographical features. Red earth (New Mexico), plains (southern Colorado), red mountains (again Colorado), mile after mile of highway and burnt grass (Kansas or southern Illinois), lush, fragrant, mountainous (Blue Ridge in North Carolina or Smokeys in Tennessee), are a small example of placement features.

2. City layout. Do the streets wander all over the place like Charlotte, North Carolina, or are they planned straight and at right angles like Phoenix, Arizona?

3. Street surfaces. Different locales use different ingredients in building of roads. Vermont roads are not laid with the same recipe as are South Carolina roads.

4. Architecture. Note different types. Do some of these coincide with ethnic background or socioeconomic necessity?

More tomorrow.



1. What are our first impressions of the community? Friendly, laid back, too busy…?

2. What attitudes do we perceive from the local citzenry? Open to outsiders, haughty, pretentious…?

3. Is the general populace retirees, college students, blue collar, white collar…?

Viable Data for Authenticity

Experts, local or those we can reach through letters or phone calls, are marvelous sources of viable data. Documentation gathered from these sources can have an added flavor that in turn could become an enhancing ingredient to our story.

Whatever type of research we do, we need to develop a systematic, organized method of recording and filing our gatherings. As writers, research is our immutable companion. We should strive to consider it a friend, respected, even esteemed.

Now, we know where to go for our information; we have some idea on who to approach and what kind of materials we need to take with us. Do we know what kind of information we’re looking for?

Other Research Resources

Bookstores, universities, Chambers of Commerce, even travel agencies can be sources of information. Don’t forget our government. From state to federal to international organizations, the glut of information is staggering. Pamphlets are available on almost any subject involving government from farming to nuclear reactors. The United Nations offers information on industry, health, and science all over the world. Again, our librarians can usually direct us to the agency most likely to have the info we need. Even if we’re gathering our information using the internet, knowing where to start can speed the process.