Research Blahs

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by Darlene L. Turner

Research—a chore or fun? Doesn’t matter the genre. Every writer has to do some sort of investigation in order to get facts straight and make their stories authentic. Some writers love research while others get the blahs when it comes to this aspect of the process.


The number one reason is probably because it takes time. Time is precious to all of us and we just want to get to the story. But don’t we want it to be realistic? Research can be exciting. It’s more than visiting a library or scouring the internet for information. Here are some tips and ideas to shed those research blues.

Field trips – Maybe visit a place to get a feel for where the story will take place. Is it in a sleepy small town? A grandeur city like Paris or London? Maybe a romantic train ride? Of course, this isn’t easy right now in our pandemic world and depends on the pocket book. However, in the past I stayed at a quaint B&B in a small town near the Detroit/Windsor border to research the area I wanted to use as the setting in one of my romantic suspense manuscripts. I visited a coffee shop and talked to the locals. Got a great idea from an older resident who told me about the history of the town. Walking the streets of these places gives the author the layout of the land and can be valuable in bringing our fiction to life.

Enroll in a local Citizen’s Police/FBI Academy – Many cities allow the public to partake in this program. If you write suspense, first-hand information on how law enforcement works is invaluable. I had the privilege to take my city’s police academy course and I gained amazing insight into the life of a police officer. Normally, ride-a-longs are only available to the public in a course like this. I encourage all writers who write suspense to take one. You won’t regret it! Also, there’s the Writer’s Police Academy (MurderCon) held every year. It’s a must for all suspense writers.

Interview when possible – Getting information first-hand from our subjects is the best way to go. Relying on the internet doesn’t always cut it. For my suspense novel involving a Canadian police constable, I was able to interview a real live Mountie! Most of the time they will let you email them when other questions arise.

Stay away from cop clichés we see on TV. Not every officer eats donuts. Need more information on dead bodies? Contact a local coroner’s office. What about legal issues? Visit a courtroom session to gather facts.

Take pictures – As they say…pictures are worth a thousand words. When visiting destinations for research, bring it home with you through pictures. Lots of them. Try and take shots in different weather conditions too. This can affect the setting and how people react in sunny and stormy days. Consider an alley at night in a fierce rainstorm. I shudder thinking about it!

Watch the news– This helps writers not only get story ideas, but allows us to see how the culture, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system works in different countries.

These are just a few tips to get rid of those blahs. Have a blast diving into research. It’s not only fun but makes our stories authentic.

Research is not only fun, but it makes our stories authentic. @darlenelturner #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Darlene L. Turner’s love of suspense began when she read her first Nancy Drew book. She’s won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense twice and an ACFW Genesis award. Her debut book, Border Breach, (Love Inspired Suspense) was a double winner at the Selah Awards, taking third place in the First Novel and Romantic Suspense categories. She’s represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She has two books releasing in 2021: Abducted in Alaska (March) and Lethal Cover-Up (July 27). She met her husband Jeff at the turtle races in Ontario, Canada. She loves flavored coffee and plaid shirts. Connect with Darlene at where there’s suspense beyond borders.

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