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.

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