One of the many things that is fun about being a writer is that you get to do research! It’s hard for me to take a vacation so I try to combine work and play whenever possible.
I’ve been working on a novel for two years that is about how Tango and romance mix. Hopefully, it’s a comedy!!
This weekend I’m attending a tango festival in Stowe, Vermont. What makes this popular festival unique is that all of the music is live. Last year, there were over 100 dancers who attended.
The basic structure of attending is that you take lessons and workshops during the day, and then go to parties called “milongas” at night.
This festival will be attended by people from all over the world. One of the conventions of Tango is that you dance with strangers so you meet lots of new people.
For the first draft of the novel, I collected stories from people I knew who were dancers. Now that I’m ready to work on a revision, I’m going to the festival to meet new people to hear their stories and get some fresh ideas of how to improve the manuscript.
Tango attracts highly intelligent, successful people with diverse professional abilities. Each tango dancer has their own unique story about Tango, so I’m sure that I will return with lots of new material.
This is a fun way to do research, but it’s still research. I will be keeping a journal, and making notes as I’m participating.
My notes will be about stories and things that actually happened at the festival, but even more importantly I will record my feelings. While I‘m not the character in the novel, we do share DNA. Noticing how I feel makes it easy for me to compare how she would feel in the same situation.
As a brief exercise, you might take whatever you do as a hobby, whether it’s dancing or biking, and commit to being a detached observer while you are engaging in that activity. Notice what you think and feel and what you observe around you.
Once you have completed the activity, make final notes, put your notes away and take a break. When you come back, look over your notes and construct a scene with whatever character you are working with just now doing that activity imagining their emotions. By comparing how you felt and what you noticed, with how your main character has experienced the event, you will gain great insight into your character.
You may also want to repeat the exercise using your villain or obstacle to compare with yourself.
To recap, writers are driven people, so combining work with pleasure makes both activities more fun!
Here’s to your successful writing,
Professor Marilyn Horowitz