When The Research Is Right

I’m a pantser. Spend any amount of time around this blog and you’ll figure that out. I come up with a concept and I go. I do research, but that usually coincides with the first few pages of my novel and the overwhelming desire to just write.

The problem about research and being a pantser: I don’t know at the beginning what direction a story will take. I don’t know my characters well enough to know which area I really need to research. So premature research, or planning before writing, doesn’t really work for me.

I still do it, to get what I need to get started, but my heart isn’t it.

On the flip, when I’ve got a finished or half-finished draft, that’s when the research grabs my heart. By then I know my plot (or mostly know) and I know my characters. I’ve got this idea for something that I don’t have a ton of experience or knowledge on. I’ve already written parts of this into the novel. I’m at the point where I need the research to check what I’ve already done and gain knowledge for how the rest of the story should go.

This is when I head to the library and pick up a few books. And I devour these books. Two things happen here to make it all work. The first, and most important, is finding out that I’ve done certain things right on my own. There is nothing better than reading a research novel and relating to it because it meshes with the character. Sure, I’ll find ideas and concepts that I need to tweak and alter, but I’ll grow stronger in what I’ve already envisioned correctly.

The second is reading different pieces of information that shape the rest of the novel. That give me new ideas and new pieces to add into my character.

These two pieces make the research enjoyable. And since I already know what angles I need for the story, I can skip around, getting parts that I need and parts that simply help flesh out the character beyond the novel.

Case in point: I’m currently researching Bipolar disorder. I’m familiar with this as a family member had it, so I have some basic knowledge. I used that knowledge, and some light internet searching directed by friend with mental health knowledge, to start my character. But she was weak and I finally found some time and looked up what my library had as options.

I picked up three books. The first pulled me in but I stopped early. It was more about diagnosis and dealing with the aftermath, I needed the lead up. The second gave me what I needed: personal stories of what it’s really like.

I don’t have Bipolar disorder. I will never get it right from a firsthand perspective. But I want to be as respectful and truthful as possible. From here I’ll seek out a beta or two with Bipolar disorder, to let me know where I’m off and need to tweak the story.

I couldn’t have done this research before creating the story and developing my characters. I need the research, but it’s a chicken before the egg type of deal: my ideal situation is chicken half formed, then egg. Which sounds really, really messed up. And perhaps that’s me as a writer: messed up.

Movies Refusal to Caption Songs

Hi, me again, writing about captioning songs in movies. I’ve been sick with a cold, so my ears are blocked, making it harder for me to hear. Husband and I settled down to watch a light movie. I was in my pajamas and my hearing aids were off.

When I don’t have my hearing aids on, I cannot rely on spoken sound when watching a movie or Television. The captions may help me comprehend some of the noise I hear, but that’s it.

We decided to watch Hotel Translyvania. The movie started and then Drac sings to Mavis.

No captions. Just an animated character, so lipreading wasn’t even an option, singing to another.

Now we had originally seen this movie on cable. On cable it had captions. Fully accessible. On DVD none.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across something I was able to watch on Television but not on a DVD version. I’m sure there is something behind the scenes with getting the captions and rights and what not. But it’s really, really frustrating to suddenly be locked out of something I once enjoyed.

Hearing readers: do me a favor, will you? Mute your computer/mobile device. Go on, I’ll wait until that bar has a red line through it, or is down to zero. Done? Good. Now click play:


I couldn’t find a version without an advertisement, or started right away with the song. So I apologize.

Finished? How enjoyable was that? Did you even make it through the whole song before giving up? Even if the subtitles are only for hearing people who don’t speak English, how enjoyable is it? This song is important, Drac’s words are important.

But…discrimination. Lack of consideration for the entire audience. How hard is it to continue with the captioning for a few songs?

How hard is it to respect?

From everything I see: pretty darn hard.

SWAY by Melanie Stanford

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this blog tour! I have already grabbed my own copy and can’t wait to start reading! Be sure to check out the giveaway! Without further ado, take it away Melanie and tell us about SWAY:

Sway blog tour banner

A big thank you to Laura for having me on her blog today!

Confession: I like to read trashy magazines. Not the really trashy kind, but the gossipy, don’t-really-believe-the-stories-are-true kind.

My main character Ava, probably likes to think her tastes are too refined for InTouch Magazine. But I would bet anything that she’d pick up a mag in a doctor’s office or standing in line at the grocery store and skim through, subconsciously looking for mentions of her ex-fiance Eric Wentworth.

So, in honor of gossip magazines, I thought I’d do a bit of a getting-to-know-you, both of me and my MC Ava. But not the usual kind. Instead, I’m taking a page (almost literally) out of InTouch magazine called MY NIGHT AT HOME: Stars Tell InTouch About the Last Time They Stayed In


I watched…

  • Melanie Stanford: Poldark. I never realized Aidan Turner was so yum!
  • Ava Elliot: also Poldark. Ditto on what Melanie said!

I texted…

  • Melanie: My brother in Pennsylvania. He texted a pic of my dad snuggling with their giant dog, which is something you don’t see every day.
  • Ava: Lexi. She was telling me how her latest BF dumped her via Instagram. (Jerk!)

I Skyped with…

  • Melanie: No one. I don’t Skype.
  • Ava: My sister Mari. She was having a minor meltdown because her husband Charlie had taken her to an arcade for their anniversary. It was a night of drama.

I read…

  • Melanie: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. Cue tears.
  • Ava: a biography of Ella Fitzgerald

I wore…

  • Melanie: pink skinny jeans and a sweatshirt, but no makeup.
  • Ava: Aritzia leggings and an Elizabeth and James sweater

I reorganized…

  • Melanie: nothing. I do my reorganizing during the day.
  • Ava: my piano sheet music—I had to re-alphabetize it all because I couldn’t find my favorite Schubert piece

I cooked…

  • Melanie: tacos! As yum as Aidan Turner (but in a completely different way, obviously)
  • Ava: Greek quinoa and avocado salad. I failed at the recipe a little but it still tasted good.

I shopped online for…

  • Melanie: books, as usual. It’s about the only thing I shop online for
  • Ava: umm… nothing. I sort of looked at some The Eric Wentworth Band merch, but I didn’t buy anything, I swear.

So, there you have it—what a night at home looks like for me and Ava. If you want to know more about some of the things Ava teased here, check out SWAY!


Links: Samhain Publishing / Amazon / Goodreads 

Blurb: She’d be happy to forget…if the past would just stop hitting “replay”.

Ava Elliot never thought she’d become a couch surfer. But with a freshly minted—and worthless—degree from Julliard, and her dad squandering the family fortune, what choice does she have?

Living with her old high school friends, though, has its own drawbacks. Especially when her ex-fiancé Eric Wentworth drops back into her life. Eight years ago, she was too young, too scared of being poor, and too scared of her dad’s disapproval. Dumping him was a big mistake.

In the most ironic of role reversals, Eric is rolling in musical success, and Ava’s starting at the bottom to build her career. Worse, every song Eric sings is an arrow aimed straight for her regrets.

One encounter, one song too many, and Ava can’t go on like this. It’s time to tell Eric the truth, and make a choice. Finally let go of the past, or risk her heart for a second chance with her first love. If he can forgive her…and she can forgive herself.

Product Warnings

Contains an actor whose kisses taste like chocolate, a pianist with scores of regret, and a sexy crooner who just wants his ex to cry him a river.

author photo Author Bio: Melanie Stanford reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow. You can find her on Twitter @MelMStanford, on Facebook @ MelanieStanfordauthor, and her website melaniestanfordbooks.com

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