My Favorite Part of Writing


Golden Poison Dart Frog. Cute but how do I fit him into my plot?

My favorite part of starting a new novel is the research.  Truth be told, I probably add unnecessary elements to my stories just so I can research something like “poison dart frogs” and find out their venom is used for treating stomach ulcers (oh yeah – gotta fit that into the plot!!)  Some stories don’t require a lot of research but when you have a protagonist like Fi Butters, a lover of all things odd and curious, you’ve got to keep your mind and a Google window open. That’s what happens when your characters are much smarter than you are, folks! 


From the Giant Red Haired Cannibals – one of my most popular posts for mystifying reasons.

Of course, with the first Flipka book it was easy. The story is set primarily in Nevada, home to Giant Red-haired Cannibals, mysterious rock formations, prehistoric fish, whorehouses, nuclear fallout, Area 51, desert rats (the human kind), conspiracy theorists, UFOs, the Burning Man festival, the Virginia City Camel races, tumbleweed filled graveyards, the Cartwrights, plenty of goof ball politicians and, of course, Vegas. It’s a regular cornucopia of bizzarities waiting to be explored.

So you can understand my trepidation at setting the first part of Flipka 2 in the area near Hudson New York, home to farms and cows and cheese.  What delicious oddities about Dairyland could Fi Butters manage to fit into one of her long rambling asides? 


Said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper (mercenary hired by the British) who lost his head to a loose canon during a “nameless battle” near Sleepy Hollow

Well, luckily a headless horseman haunts that area, inspiring Washington Irving to write his classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  The problem is, I currently have no idea how to fit a headless Revolutionary War trooper into Flipka 2.  A possible rival to Professor Lopinski?

The good news is you can find plenty of oddities anywhere.  The problem, how to fit them into your story! What sort of things have you stumbled upon while researching a novel that you just had to fit into a plot?

BTW:  I’m considering adding a page to the blog for promoting writers who have specials going on their books or an upcoming release.  What do you think?  Would you be interested in participating? 

15 thoughts on “My Favorite Part of Writing

  1. Hey Jan, first of all, I’m thrilled to hear you’re working on Flipka 2! That sounds like lots of fun for you and I know it’ll be fun for your readers. I also love doing research for books, even though probably about 85% of the stuff I find doesn’t make it into the stories–I think because I get too distracted by peripheral info that has absolutely zero relevance to the plot. But I felt like i struck gold when I was writing Leaving the Beach, and was looking for names of musicians from the main character’s hometown of Winthrop, MA. It turned out that Steven Van Zandt lived there as a young child, and my character was already obsessed with Bruce Springsteen! In the end, it didn’t add a lot to the story, but it was a fun detail.

    As for the blog page about specials/new releases, what a great idea! I might even steal it, if that’s ok with you. I usually tweet when writers I admire are running specials, but a blog page would reach a different audience. Awesome!

    1. Thanks Mary! I like to read those details! They make a story more vivid to me. Dickens always gave his characters – even the minor ones – some quirky character trait and he kept them true to that trait. Often the little details would make the difference. Take care and thanks for stopping by!

    1. Researching the same things as your character might also helps you get to know them better! I haven’t had too many readers complain about obscure details, at least to my face.

  2. Hi Jan…
    I couldn’t agree more with your statements with regard to how attainable information is…
    We don´t need to go that far in time to notice these changes…
    I mean, less than two decades ago, we had to do research in Libraries, plus photocopy pages of the relevant books…
    On the contrary, Information is easily available, right here right now… almost everywhere…
    I enjoyed the way you describe gathering information when it comes to your bookish saga…
    you mentioned The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and just for the record and in case you have Netflix I´d recommend you to watch an episode the X files, called Leonard Betts… Season 4, episode 12… maybe you can even find it on YouTube..
    Very good luck to you. Aquileana ☀️

    1. Thank you Aquileana! For Flipka I actually did have a pile of books about the Civil War. I didn’t know that much about the war and needed enough info to know what to Google – LOL. I was in upper state New York not that long ago and was surprised to find myself in Sleepy Hollow. Didn’t know the place actually existed. Thanks for the recommendation – I will definitely check it out.

  3. I guess one of the best things about writing poetry is that most of the research goes on in one’s head, if one can trust that arena. I think your idea is very generous.

  4. Me too Jan re: thesaurus searching & also ColmHerron’s The Wake. I’ve read the book& it’s wonderful. I like your blog & I like your idea of featuring writers. Happy Christmas !

  5. I also really enjoy the research, though it can lead one astray… Sounds like you have lots of great ideas for your new novel, and I think that you’re right– if you look more closely there are most certainly oddities anywhere. I’m floored by the quirky crimes that happen in what I think of as a relatively sleepy part of the world.

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