How to Research

frog factStay tuned for information from the retreat last weekend.  I wrote this post ahead of time to give myself a day or two to process what I learned.  Now, on to the post…

I find myself doing more and more photo and video research for various projects.  I’m not looking for photos to point out to an editor as much as I want to see what various prayer flags look like.  I want to know how a ptarmigan looks when it is walking across the tundra.

Often, I find things with a quick Google Search or a search on Pinterest.

Remember the old rule?  If you find three sources, you know a fact is credible.  Thanks to the internet and Pinterest, that rule it out the door.  You can find something several dozen times and it is absolute rubbish.

I know because I tested this with my two favorite examples.  I typed in baboon.  Up came dozens and dozens of photos of baboons.  I also found at least two dozen photos of mandrill, some labeled as baboons and some as mandrill baboons.  Nope.  Try again.  A mandrill and a baboon are related but not the same thing.  Sorry.

Then I ran test #2.  I typed in Mayan Calendar.  Up popped, if I looked hard enough, two or three calendars created by the Maya and dozens upon dozens by the Aztec.  Not the same at all although both groups lived in Mexico.  I almost felt sorry for the guy with the huge Aztec calendar tattooed across his back — although maybe that’s exactly what he asked for.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you need to use a variety of sensory details in your writing.  To read more about how to do this, check out my post Saturday at the Muffin.  But be very careful doing image searches.  A lot of people are circulating gorgeous photos that are sadly mislabeled.


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