Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Novel Progress - Researching a Novel (London, trainspotting and multiplayer games)

I hate doing research - for anything - and deliberately decided to write a novel that would require little or no research. Unfortunately I've reached a part of the novel where I do need to do some research if I'm to write the next scene accurately and have sent out an SOS novel to a friend.

What's the scene?

A LAN party. Ever heard the term? It's where 'gamers' (computer game addicts) network their computers together so they can play a multiplayer game. I once had a go on Doom (many moons ago) but that was on someone else's PC and have no idea about the kind of elves and orcs fantasy world games that seem so popular. But I know a girl who does (!) so have sent her an email and a list of questions I'd like her to answer.

There are other areas of my novel that need research too. My novel is set in London and I've only vaguely decided where my characters live and, so far, I've guessed at the surroundings and the bus routes that connect them. At some point (when I've finished the first draft and I'm editing and adding more detail etc) I need to visit all of those places, work out if they're suitable places for my characters to live and make a few bus journeys and see how long they take! I'll also have to check out a few pubs nearby to see if my characters would drink there (oh that'll be tough!)

AND... I need to find out more about trainspotters. I've googled until my fingers bleed but can't seem to find out very much at all about what it is that gets a trainspotters heart beating faster. Anyone know which of London's many train stations is the favourite with trainspotters? Anyone know where in that station a trainspotter would hang out to get the best views of the trains?

So far I've just made it up but at some point I'm going to have to check all my facts!

What have you had to research? Or do you just make it up as you go along and leave it at that?

Edited to add: Rather than wait for my friend to come back with the answers to my questions I did a bit of googling and ploughed on through the scene giving the minimum amount of specifics (they can be added later when I get the answers to my questions). Wrote 1,123 words that wouldn't have been written if I'd chosen to watch TV instead. 47,012 words or 52% of novel done.


Kathmcg said...

My brother's a 'railway enthusiast' which is what trainspotters prefer to call themselves. Most will be interested in all things railway, rather than simply writing down numbers of trains. My brother, for example, is keenly involved in the restoration of the Lynton to Barnstaple railway (google that and you might find piccies of him).

In his teens, he stood at the ends of railway platforms, bobble-hatted, notebook in hand. You could buy books full of train numbers - a different book for each class of train - and he'd cross them off once he'd seen them.

In his twenties, having spotted most of the trains there are, he started travelling all over the country. On a map of rail routes, he highlighted each one after he'd travelled it, and eventually he'd covered every inch of railway line in Britain (except for a joining loop near Dartford which I did by accident once, having fallen asleep on the train. Boy, was he jealous!)

Trainspotters have a whole language of their own - I think 'gricing' refers to trainspotting, you 'bash' a line rather than travel on it etc. You might want to include these phrases! And they hate their bobble-hat stereotyped image, but all wear them. For holidays, they go and repair track on scenic narrow-gauge tourist railways.

Anyway, hope this is of some help. You could browse Railway magazine (and other titles) in WHS. Might want to wear a disguise.

CTaylor said...

Thanks Kath that info is incredibly useful (particularly as I can now google 'rail enthusiast' and actually find some sites).

The language tip is brilliant. I'll have to find out more about that and work the terms into the characters's dialogue.

Not sure about browsing Railway magazine - there's only so far I'll go in the name of research ;o)

Thanks again for info. I really appreciate it.