Research: Acquiring More Than Facts

The sea fog swirled around me and clouded my view of the waves rolling in off of the green-grey horizon and crashing in a thunderous climax against the sandy shoreline. But I knew the fog was not what it seemed. Fog spirits kissed my heat-baked skin, their touch delightful like the tender lips of a new lover. I tipped my face up and the bold dot of yellow attempted to burn away the mist surrounding me. The sun’s heat hugged me in warmth, intensifying my pleasure and trying to tear at it with the same salty breath. I suppose fog spirits might be in competition with the sun. As a human, I couldn’t know and perhaps because of the heat and mist war that stole my breath, I didn’t care. I lie back onto the heated sand, let the fog spirits dance across my skin, listened to a thousand lulling murmurs that drifted in off of the surf, and closed my eyes. My human lover who lay beside me would never allow them to steal me away.

Research: Acquiring More Than Facts.

Yesterday, I spent the day researching Fog Spirits with my husband. I drove along highway 1 toward Point Reyes, California, stopping at the local restaurants to sample some of the day’s freshest catch: oysters, clams, shrimp, crab, salmon, herring, chowder, and warm French bread. We could have included wine and local cheeses and many of the other tourists lured by the mad frenzy to the bountiful tables that lined the banks and overlooked Tamales Bay did enjoy these additions. But I resisted such temptations as this was a business trip.

Back in the car, I cruised along the shoreline toward the point, the salty yet heavily muddied scent of the bay should have been stifling, but wasn’t. The sea was close enough to taste. I accelerated toward the fog bank that hung in a thin sheet over the last cypress-filled bluff overlooking the pacific coastline.

Once on the beach I played in the frigid surf, letting the sand push between my toes, and explored tide pools that dotted the shoreline. My partner and I copped a spot in that heat-infused sand, tucking against the rocky bluff. I closed my eyes and listened to the rumbling waves that built and built before exploding against the surf, the cry of an occasional seagull, the mist tickling my skin, and the sun a mere thought.

And I reminded myself why I’d come to this place, why more than any other location in the world, the pacific—my backyard—pulled me like a current to this spot time and again since childhood. I asked myself what memories and information I could take with me from this day? What would I infuse into my nearly finished work in progress (WIP)?

One thing I’ve learned is to wait until I’m nearly finished with my stories before weaving fiction and fact together. I once spent months researching the fifteenth century, working that piece into my hero’s past and having my editor recommend that I remove the thread as it didn’t affect the plot. She was right. And although I increased my knowledge of the French Revolution, I’d also wasted time researching instead of writing that story.

Research List, Collecting More Than Shells:

  • Senses (sounds, smells, sights, tastes, touch)
  • Emotional Feeling
  • Traditions
  • Local Celebrations
  • Beliefs/Fears
  • Culture
  • Food
  • Climate
  • Time of Year
  • Founder(s)
  • Socioeconomic Status

Research Expenses, Keeping Track of More Than Sanddollars:

  • Mileage
  • Food
  • Tour Admission Costs
  • Books
  • Toll
  • Parking

Do Fog Spirits exist? In my mind they do.

Here’s hoping that your time spent researching is a pleasurable as mine.

Happy Researching,

Cyndi Faria

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10 thoughts on “Research: Acquiring More Than Facts

  1. Good advice as always, especially the part about writing the story first and weaving the research in later.

  2. Lovely post, Cyndi!
    I love the Pacific coast too, and Pt. Reyes is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve discovered on it! I’m happy you connected with your ‘fog spirits’ and I agree — you never know when something you experience (a sound, smell, tradition) will find its way into a story. I love when that happens in my writing.

    • Thank you, Loucinda. The weather was so perfect, though we did get a little sunburned. Sounds like you need to take a trip over there. BTW, Pt Reyes station was such fun! Happy research! Cyndi 😀

  3. Another beautiful and thought-provoking post! Thank you for reminding me to get the story out first, and worry about the facts later. I tend to get sidetracked by facts and then lose momentum. Love the fog spirit idea, too! 🙂

  4. Very nice post, Cyndi. Sounds like a lovely time was had by all – er – both. I enjoy research too, but do most of mine from memory or on line. Nice to have the reminders.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Love your post! You’re always so funny. Making new memories is always so much more fun than the internet, but I’m so thankful we have that tool! 😀 Cyndi

  5. It is not always easy to get the balance between research and writing correct. Are you a stickler for details or would you rather get the basics right and have a little leeway? Either way you are going to alienate part of the potential audience but as the old saying goes “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

    • First, thank you for following me! In regards to finding a balance between research and writing correctly, my writing tends to capture the landscape, flora and fauna, local traditions and culture. Since I write mostly paranormal, I tweek the local myths and legends to suite my imagination. I create a fictional town to fit my needs, which has been a combination of several California coastal towns as well as towns in the Sierra Foothills and Northern California. When reading fiction, I take it as that: fiction. I just think a writer’s concept of reality, whether using a real town or made up, is more dynamic than facts. But that’s me. I try not to worry about alienating readers I have little control over. Great questions. Hope you stop by again! Cyndi

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