Category Archives: Research

I’ll Have a Latte and a Side of People Watching

peoplewatchingThis morning I had a meeting set for 10 a.m. at the Barnes and Noble nearby. As I sat waiting for the guy I was supposed to meet I got the chance to sit and watch the comings and goings of the patrons of this particular coffee cafe…I have to say, it was interesting for me as a human as well as a writer.

In streamed a seemingly endlessly array of those looking for something. There was one guy who was obviously trying to feel a bit more important than his “real” life allowed. You could tell because he came in, ordered a large coffee and then stared the room down as though he was daring someone to question him on why he was here. Then there was the older couple who sort of slinked in and quietly set up their laptop at a near by table looking as if they had just stolen the laptop….they were here for the free WiFi. And there was OCD guy who walked in, ordered a very specific coffee - latte, soy, half an extra shot and only two pumps of chocolate, about 180 degrees - he then laid his stuff out on a table by the window setting each thing down one piece at a time, each in it’s own spot. After arranging his stuff he then tried first one side of the table and then the other obviously looking for just the right lighting. He made me tired by the time he settled in and I had to fight the urge to walk over and mess up his stuff just to see what he would do.

I could go on, lord knows there were many, many others but that’s not the reason for today’s column. (Although it would have been entertaining) I described the patrons of the Barnes and Noble cafe to show you just how much material is in a trip outside of the house. If you are anything like me, and most writers are, we live a bit of a mushroom type of life. We stay at home, chained to our desk ignoring the rest of the world in the name of getting down one more page….we have to stop doing that. You have to live in order to be able to write about life. Let me say that again….you have to live, in order to write about life.

So take that trip, travel to places you have never been, head down to the nearest mall and people watch…it’s all research and it can be invaluable. In fact, the above B & N scene is going to make it into one of my books….it’s too full of characters not to.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on April 4, 2023 in Inspiration, Research, Writing


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Be Real – Just the Facts Mam’

facts(Monday’s Column)

I know a lot of writers who think that they have to make stuff up. They sit down at the keyboard and they create a story full of made up information. They give no care to their readers being intelligent enough to see the misinformation…they don’t care…they think that being a writer gives them a license to kill the facts…call them the 007’s of the literary world. The thing is, just like a doctor wouldn’t want the nickname 007 neither should you as a writer.

Being a writer is about more than just writing. Let me repeat that….being a writer, is about more than just writing. A writer has to research his/her subjects in order to add authenticity to their story. There is nothing more annoying as a reader than to pick up a book, begin to enjoy it only to be punched in the face with some fact that is blatantly not true. For instance….I recently read a book that involved a kidnapping. The victim was a child and the kidnapper took the child without any hesitation on the child’s part. We live in a world where kidnappings are not rare; most parents have drilled it into their kids, all the precautions, yet, this writer, chose to just lead the kid away. (and the child was 12 so we know that isn’t actually possible). So as a reader I am supposed to believe that a stranger approached this kid and the kid never even considered that something might be wrong? And to top it off the kid was the son of a cop? Really?

It seems a small thing but in the grand scheme of reading…it insults the reader and many other writers do much worse. So if you are going to write, write, but as you are doing so, do your research too. It would be a cryin shame to have a great story ruined because you were too lazy to find out that most 12 year olds are cynical and suspicious. Hell all the research that tidbit calls for in my house is a trip upstairs, so sometimes the research is actually easier than the actual writing…go figure. Do the research folks…your writing will be better…trust me.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on February 5, 2023 in Research, Writing


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Knowing What We Know When We Know No One Else Knows

Writers are not necessarily “smart” people. I don’t really consider myself “smart”. What I do consider myself is “informed”. No, really…think about that for a minute… As writers we are required to research a lot. We are also required to pay attention to the world around us. We have to; it’s our fodder for current and future stories. Knowing what we know however can weigh heavy on a person. It can make you downright pessimistic if you aren’t careful.

So what is a writer to do, knowing what we know? How do we go on about our daily lives without letting it all get to us…you know…the actually world as it is happening, not as everyone else perceives it. I personally used to think that I could separate myself from it…be an “observer, like on that television show Fringe. (Great show by the way) But that isn’t possible because while writers are “observers” we are also some of the most passionate people I know too. We can’t “not” care…..

So what is the answer? How are we to remain writers who are informed and not crazy people shouting “the end is near”? The answer is in how we respond to all of the information we absorb. For me, and this is a personal thing, I have to do something to help on a regular basis. I have to know that I am trying to make a difference in this world gone mad. Sure I could sit around, be grumpy and Archie Bunker my way through life, (just dated myself there huh?) but I would rather try and use my writing powers for good and help. I volunteer my writing to charities, I write informative pieces on how others can help…I do what I can and I try to remain optimistic.

The final thing you can do as a writer is to understand that you are unlike most people. I get sort of a sadistic kick out of hearing uninformed people talk about what they think they know. Come on, admit it, it’s funny to hear folks talk about Dec. 21st…especially when you know that they really have no idea what they are talking about because they don’t do the research. I realize that I am not like everyone out there who believe everything they hear, I have to do the research…I am compelled…and if you are a writer…so are you.

So during this season of uncertainty in the world when there is talk of fiscal cliffs, Mayan doom and, here in America, states seceding…keep your chin up and use your powers of research and writing for good. When you hear folks spouting crap hat you know, based on the facts, isn’t true…talk to them so that they don’t go out and propagate that same crap in the world. With great power, comes great responsibility, (to quote a super hero) make sure that you use your power over words to make the world a better place and in, return you will get to keep your sanity because you will be sharing what you know with those who don’t know….you know?


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on November 26, 2022 in Research, Writing


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Don’t Believe Everything on the Internet - Do the Research

Don’t you just hate it when someone comes to you with something that they read on the internet and insists that it is true no matter how retarded it sounds? I have a friend who gets up every morning and checks the online news sites for his daily dose of depressing crap. He then will call, email or blog about what he has read, waxing poetically his opinions on what is going on in the world. Last week he tried to convince me that scientists had discovered Atlantis in Utah. (Damn Mormons have EVERYTHING!)

No matter how hard I try I can’t get my friend (and I use that term loosely) to understand that everything he reads on the internet isn’t true. Of course this is the same guy that, when we were kids, thought that Scooby Doo was a great detective…go figure. Sadly, my friend isn’t alone. There is a whole sub-society out there that believes everything they read on the internet. It’s like an illness for which the cure hasn’t been located yet. These folks believe that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., Oprah is really a white woman, Michael Jackson and Elvis are alive and working together in a Burger Kind in Iowa and there are small blue men living at the earth’s core. Common sense be damned….it’s all true, it must be, I read it on the internet.

As a writer, you can’t be one of these people. If you are, kindly put the ink pen down and go collect applications from the Jiffy Lube. A writer has to employ common sense and they have to do the proper research. Do you know why it is so important that we do this? Have you not been listening???? People tend to believe what they read…no matter what the medium. We have to do the research and get it right for all those yahoos out there who refuse to do the research themselves. Do you know that there are still people out there who believe that JFK was actually an adopted Cuban boy? Seriously…

There are some hard fast rules for using the internet for research;

  1. Visit more than one website - You don’t stop the first guy you see and ask “do you read on the toilet” and if he says yes, assume that EVERY guy does. Go the extra mile…ask at least two guys.
  2. Confirm your research – If you find an interesting fact, like Nicole Kidman is really a man…verify it. She may not be… (however there is this website…)
  3. Use reputable sources – Wiki, while interesting, huge and wildly funny, is not the end all when it comes to facts. Remember that it is “user” created. Garbage in, garbage out…. You can actually go onto Wiki and spin some wild yarn about how Botox is made up of swan urine and they will post it…seriously…
  4. USE COMMON SENSE – Let me repeat that one, use common sense. I know that it’s hard sometimes not to want to run with the ducks like everyone else but, as a writer, you have an obligation to employ common sense when doing research. If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck…do some extra research any way…it could be an entirely different animal with a cold.

Come on folks…we are writers. People trust us to get it right because they are too lazy to do it for themselves. Go the extra mile and make sure that what you are churning out is as close to the truth as humanly possible. If you don’t Elvis and his merry band of aliens will come to your house and probe you will with glow sticks…it’s true…I saw it on the internet.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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