Friday Five: MORE Things I’ll be Researching

Here’s the thing about the research bucket. It’s like Mary Poppins carpetbag–never really empty.

I said back here that, in my second draft, I want to be able to weave in a lot of the history I need for the story. So I’ve spent a lot of time the past few months doing the kind of research I need to get closer to the plot–checking out realities and possibilities. I dug far enough into things to be pretty sure that, yes, one of my characters can have an automobile; yes, another can have a job in the beauty industry; yes, my MC can be the daughter of an immigrant; yes, her little brother can play with toy trains. And I’ve been tossing ideas into my plot, based on those green lights.

This week, I’m starting to flesh out the plot and then, hopefully, to put things into a sequence that may, as a starting point, make sense. I’m using Scrivener and filling out scene cards with basic information–which characters are in the scene, where do they go and what do they do, what’s the main conflict and why…that stuff. And I’m also including a list of specific questions I need answers to…for that scene.

This 2nd draft is going to be a lot of stops and starts. (That’s okay…remember my word for 2011? Peace!)

Anyway, during my plotting sessions with Scrivener, I’ve already come up with way more than 5 things I’ll be researching. So for today’s post, just the tip of the iceberg.

1. In 1912, who were the kids that were still in high school? I know that a lot more kids were going to and finishing high school by this time, but there were still plenty having to quit to get jobs, to help out at home, or just because the family didn’t see a reason for them to be going on. I want to have some idea of what the mix was that were still there, in the classrooms, learning for…learning.

2. Did American Flyer sell accessories for their wind-up model trains? Would a “train kid” have little houses and depots and trees and cows? (Don’t laugh: some British train companies modified their models for sale in America by adding cow catchers to the front!) And what would those accessories be?

3. What specific automobile will Caro’s not-yet-maybe-never-boyfriend own? What did it look like, feel like, smell like? And how much trouble is he going to get into when they…Never mind. You’ll have to wait for that one.

4. What kind of injury, in 1912, would put someone at potential risk for death and, if they survived, leave the chance they wouldn’t walk again. I have a doctor friend who will be getting a LOT of questions, and then I’ll have to read up on this stuff in 1912. Oh, yeah, that’ll be fun.

5. What needle craft did German-Jewish immigrant women do–those of the age to come to American in the late 1800s? Knitting? Lace-making? Some kind of embroidery? This is one it would be very nice to have a time machine for–I’d just zip back to Berlin in those  years and talk to some of my great-something-aunts. As it is…more reading!

Whether you’re working on a historical novel or not, what are some of the questions you’re wondering about for your WIP? Drop them in the comments–you never know when someone will have an answer. And if not, it’s fun to see some things we don’t have to hunt down ourselves!


  1. What would have brought my German (Gentile) family to America in 1889? Bet you’ve found some sources for this.



    • beckylevine says:

      Hmm…Most of the stuff I’ve been reading is about German Jews. But I’m wondering about something merchant-based? Sons/brothers of businessmen wanting to see about building their own thing over here?


  2. Among the many subjects I have already researched and need to continue researching for my novel: earthquakes (ahem), Silicon Valley history, migraines, addiction, child development, asthma, and various injuries.

    For a while I was watching an interesting community where writers post research questions that they’ve been having trouble finding answers to:

    If you get stuck on any of your questions, you might give it a try.


  3. Nifty questions, Becky! I know finding the answers will take time, but I bet you dig up even more interesting details along the way.

    Like you, one of my preoccupations is with illnesses that suit my plot (only in my case it’s c. 1660). But one of my favorite research questions for this WIP involved figuring out how to stock the workroom of a would-be alchemist and engraver.


    • beckylevine says:

      Wow, 1660! You amaze me how you find information about things that happened SO long ago. Tricky enough for me with 1912! And I love the idea of a WOULD-BE alchemist & engraver. And now I’m curious about how those two things go together. Get writing, please! 🙂


  4. I have an ongoing list of things I have to find out. What type of police brutality occurred in Charlotte, NC in 1950, did black kids have typewriters in their schools, what did kids wear as “play clothes”, what birds would have been heard in September….the list is unending!


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