10 Areas for More Research

February is almost up, and I still have much left to research for my book.  I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by it all, so I thought I would sweep the rest into a list and gradually make my way through it this spring.

These are some remaining areas for research:

Contemporary photo of the junior high I attended

Contemporary photo of the junior high I attended

1.  Collect photographs of the buildings of my life: houses we lived in; schools I attended; places I went to for extracurriculars, such as the library, art center, and ballet studio; local parks; my great-grandfather’s farm; and stores, malls, and shopping centers.  I felt that this stuff would be readily available, but the truth is I’m  having a difficult time finding the majority of this material.

2.  Draw “blueprints” of our houses

3.  Glue several photographs of each main character on character boards so I can see the evolution in looks/aging and fashions and hair styles for each character.  For my grandmother’s life before I was born, search for fabrics such as she wore

4.  Draw maps of each neighborhood I lived in

5.  Study more about the trash industry in the sixties–teepee burners, city dumps and landfills, scrapyards and junkyards

6.  Study more about German immigration to the Chicago area in 1890s and the situation of German immigrants in Chicago and its suburbs through WWII

7.  Collect photos and research telephones, TVs, and radios we used over the years.

8.  Same as #7 for our cars and trucks and boats.

9. Research an area of interest for each main character.  For example, for my grandmother it could be sewing or clothing design.

10. Research all the little weird things that my kids wouldn’t know about.

 Examples include Fizzies soda tablets which we melted on our tongues

and rat fink rings

If you’re wondering how I plan to use the results of my research, I hope it will do double duty.  For example, research stimulates my memory.  When I see a photograph of a place I used to know so well, I think ahah, right, now I remember that window was there to the left of the door.  The other benefit of research is to check my memories to make sure I remember things accurately.


What research, if any, do you do for your writing?  Do you have ideas for new research?


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Research and prep for writing

5 responses to “10 Areas for More Research

  1. Since I’m working on a contemporary fiction novel, I haven’t done much research except on farming schedules and when certain plants are in bloom. I have, however, had to go back and rebuild a town and timelines to make sure that everything makes sense, since occasionally I misplace a restaurant or send a character back to the future unintentionally!

  2. You have done a lot of great research so far. More than I would have thought of…..Jill

  3. Excellent! I use so many photos … old, new… and free write from them. I could not believe what I could excavate from memory by sifting there! You also point out so many new things to consider here! I’m curious about the story board idea – how collaging and considering time change meaning! Excellent stuff. Your details are amazing: Rat Fink Rings? Love it! – Renee

  4. What great ideas for research. When doing travel writing, I am constantly doing research, before, during, and after. And when writing about family, I am also doing research. I enjoy getting into the mind-state of mining sensory images from the past.

  5. I love your ideas, especially the photo board. I recently went through some of my grandmother’s things and found the pictures I knew were there, the last ones she took of the farm before she sold it. It has been wonderful to look through them, but more important are the memories they conjure. I really should take yet another road trip and this time take pictures. I tend to want to rely on my organic memory, but it keeps decomposing!

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