Category Archives: Research

IWSG 36: Caves Around British Columbia

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.


What is the weirdest/coolest thing I ever had to research for a story?

My answer: The caves in BC.

I did quite a bit of research for a little piece called: Mirrors of Ash.

The world building:

There wasn’t too much world building. The majority of the setting was either underground or following a road that leaves my hometown and loops back after several miles. I took the liberty of creating a mountainside called Swallow’s Cliff that could be seen from that loopy road.


I’ve never been underground. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve been in a basement, the SkyTrain when it traveled into downtown Vancouver, the lower floors of a store or mall. But I’d never gone into a mine, or followed a cave into a mountain.

Luna Farris, my hero, not only goes deep underground, she goes back to her old childhood playground–the caves of Swallow’s Cliff. However this round she goes deeper than ever before to face a family nemisis.

Since I’ve never felt the need or curiosity to do this, I had some research to do. I found YouTube posts on the local caves around my neck of the woods. I’d watch one in the dark to get into the right state of mind.

Skaha Caves/Fissure in Pentiction.

Cody Caves Provincial Park

Not for me

I actually felt claustrophobic as my character worked her way through the gaps; and not being as thin as she was, I knew I wasn’t as physically fit either.

Luna used earbuds and listened to music as she move within mountain but I listened sounds of a cave. It bumped up my imagination as Luna squeezed into places that I wouldn’t dare go.

Sounds of a Cave

Other tidbits of research

  • I looked up some detail about shotguns
  • That the name Faris meant Knight (I was torn between Faris and St George.)
  • Swallow banks (Just because they looked cool and I wanted labyrinth of sorts that my hero needed to work through to find her prey.


Still like listening to the sounds of caves as I work. It helps me focus on the story and not be distracted by all the going-ons within the house. Lucky discovery that.

Checking out all the posts

I’m looking forward to the other posts this month. So curious on what all of you discovered. No doubt, I’ll be taking notes are more than one subject. Thanks in advance.


Adding Facts: Less is More

pile-576471As writers, we’ve read about the writing craft and avoid info dumps. Why? Because we don’t want all our hard work to disappear under a huge pile of research.

Readers come first.

Information dumps

Moderation is key.

I watched a movie recently. Too much fighting. Too many special effects. And believe or not–too much sex. To be honest, it got boring. Instead of moving the story along and keeping my attention, it zoned me out.

I wanted story.

Info dumps are the same thing. Sure often researching new information is interesting. That’s probably why we are writing about it, but it must be pushed to the background.

How do the masters do it?

Who isn’t a fan of the greats? Here are some of my favorites: Tolkien, Rowling, Patterson, Connelly, Cornwall, Evanovich, and Hamilton.

And they all have one thing in common. Their stories keep me reading no matter where they take me because their research is where it belongs.

Once I started putting stories together, I can’t help but look deeper at the mechanics of excellent work.

pile-575649Do you have a trick in keeping your work from disappearing under a pile of research?

A Good Story Is Built On Details

I’ve read many times that a good story is in its details. Concrete details like sight, sound, scent, texture/temperature, taste, and emotional impact are the ways to pull a reader into a story. It turns out that there is more.

Adding hard facts adds details too.

I’ve been to several places in British Columbia. Some could be described as big, historic, not-so-big, picturesque, farmland, a holiday spot, politically charged, or  just too damn small. In my past I’ve enjoyed all kinds events, and a variety of people.

No doubt those people, places and things have changed over time. If I want to be up-to-date and use the most current information, I’ve got to find it first.


I can think of three things to research when getting started on a story:

  • My main characters common knowledge
    • Pets, hobbies, sports, prejudice, vocation,  etc
  • Where my characters live
    • world, settings, weather, crime, business, etc
  • And general details of where the story may lead

More specific items will come up as things move forward.

I never dreamed when I wrote my first story I’d land up diving in so deep. But just like you, the more I write the deeper I go.

Information is everywhere

There is no excuse for not looking up any detail no mater how big or how small. There is more than the local library, and traveling today. There’s the internet, Google Streets and Skpe/Facetime. We can literally talk to anyone anywhere.

Information is at our fingertips.

squirrel-304021_1280_nobgUsing a character as guide, I seek out what each character needs to know to be credible. You may choose to go further. I draw the line, because if I researched everything in my story until it was only full of facts then I’d be up to my elbows in creative non-fiction.

Tell me, what’s the weirdest thing you needed to research and where did you find it?

What Do You Know?

Have you ever read that we should, as writers, interview people to get our facts straight? Well, I believe everyone is an expert on something, so I’m asking: what do you know?

Do I sound silly?

I’m good with that. I’d like to start a list of people that will supply answers.

For example: you could be a school teacher, woodworker, marksman, daycare worker or office drone. If I have a question in regards to who you are or what you do, may I contact you?

I promise to share as well.

I’ll go first

I love dogs and have a lot of experience with them. When I worked full-time I worked at the telephone company. It was years ago, (mostly eighties and nineties). Now I work part-time assembling pallets and live in a small town.

Do you have questions about:

  • small town living
  • living in British Columbia
  • living in Canada
  • caring for dogs
  • nail guns, saws, etc

your turn

Anyone know anything about:

  • RCMP protocols,
  • Canadian Crime Stoppers rewards,
  • or animal shelters adoption policies.

The questions never stop.

So if you don’t mind me picking your brain please share what your specialties are in the comments. Thanks in advance 🙂

Addition: If I’ve offended anyone, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to pry or find out anything about you that you don’t want to share. I’m looking for the human touch and that is all.

Writing Research + Pet Selection—Why The English Setter

I’m writing a new mystery, and since I like to push my main characters to their limit and beyond, I decided to give this main character a pet. While I was researching, I found one that had its own type of personal challenge. Wicks, the English Setter in my latest, is

10-12% of all English Setters become deaf weeks after birth. It has to do with their coat and skin tones. Many are destroyed for that reason.

My main character is a softhearted dog lover trying to be a tough business woman.

When I made the match, this is what I considered:

An extremely gentle animal, not a guard dog, doesn’t do well being left alone all day.

When they catch the scent of a small animal/bird, they move in slowly and eventually mesmerize their prey.

Easily distracted by birds. (I remember meeting an Irish Setter that barked into the sky every time a flock passed overhead.)

She will need pampering and trips to the beauty salon.

Long silky hair will be shed constantly.

setter-181676_1920The breed is smart and can learn everything but herding commands.

They need a lot of exercise.

They can be very stubborn to the point where refuse to move. Think donkey.

Deaf dogs must be kept on their leash outside of their home.

Deaf dogs are called by a vibrating collar, flashing lights, or stomping foot.

When waking a deaf dog, one must do it gently so not to frighten them.

Some of the things I thought I’d incorporate in to my story:

Wicks is very dependent and stubborn. Dog/people arguments will happen, during bath time, car-ride time, exercise time and anytime the main character is in a hurry.

Wicks and the main character will communicate through hand signals. They will start off with sit, down, and wait. Then move on to seek, retrieve, and hide. She’ll be directed to search for evidence and when she finds the item, she’ll retrieve it. I’m thinking that Wicks will do this without being asked occasionally to increase story tension.

Being a birder, Wicks is okay with guns. She can altert the main character when someone is carrying a weapon.

Wicks will stalk and mesmerize other people’s pets, kids and whatever else catches her eye.

And here I’m pushing the envelope—Wicks will learn some commands by scent. The MC bestie is an essential oils queen. I want my MC to communicate through scent. Rose means stay close. Therefore, the main character rubs some oil on dog-634202_1920someone and her dog will follow them. Another scent could mean distract. I don’t know if it will work or not but I plan to include it in my first draft.

I’m really looking forward to driving my soft-hearted dog-loving main character crazy with her new puppy. Can you think of any other challenges or behaviors Wicks could add to the story?

Gleaned from: