Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Margarita Nights - Research

Platform, it's all about Platform. Sigh! In line with building a Platform, I'm going to devote one post per week to my current PIQ (project in query). Why? Because QueryTracker says I must!

Okay, not really, but it sounded good . . . and I've barely had one cup of coffee this morning!

Last week I posted this about my Platform and the next great breakthrough novel . . . Margarita Nights. In case you're wondering, every use of the word margarita in the manuscript is bolded, italicized, and greened. Why? Because I wanted to do something different, something unique, something that set me apart - other than my brilliant writing - from other writers. Okay, seriously, I saw something similar years ago and borrowed the idea. Still, I thought it was neat and until someone tells me otherwise, I'm keeping it in the manuscript!

This weeks post is about research. Research is integral to any writing. There's no way I could write about Paris in 1876 without doing some research. I also couldn't write about knitting without doing a ton of research. I have no clue what knit one, purl two actually means. Same thing goes for butterfly collecting, moon walking, or golf. In order to write about those subjects, I would need to do research. Research is key - remember those words.

So, how does a guy research a book about margaritas? Okay, LitGirl01, you got it: he drinks lots and lots of margaritas. Seriously, I didn't drink that many. Still, I did have to do research . . .

The book, unlike Aphrodite, did not emerge fully formed. I wrote out the rough draft (50,000 words) in two weeks in a period of intense obsessiveness where I lost 10 pounds because I was barely eating. It's called the Writer's Diet. You should really try it sometime. Anyhow, the research for this manuscript was fairly easy.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a semi-snarky (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it) young (again, my story, sticking to it) man who went out for margaritas with friends every couple of months. They talked, they laughed, they ogled the college men, they discussed stories they had heard on the gayvine (telephone, telegraph, tell-a-gay man), and they often danced around their own problems. On some nights, they went to the bar afterwards.

Somewhere along the way, on a day in July, I thought hmmm, what if I write a story about a group of friends who get together for . . . well, yes, I did. I wrote that story. I took a real life moment and (hopefully) fictionalized it beyond recognition. I did my research by drinking many, many, many margaritas, by watching the people around me, eavesdropping on conversations, and paying close attention to the tendrils of the gayvine. I ferreted out the truth behind the stories and inserted them (cleverly, I hope) into the manuscript. I watched the people in the bar - searching, searching, searching, ever searching for Mr. Right. I wrote about the desperation of ending up alone at the end of the night, the feelings of something being wrong with the character in question because he always ended up alone. I wrote about the doubt, the frustration, the mild anger when nothing seemed to go right in a character's dating life. I delved into relationships and then shattered those relationships with a simple kiss. I exposed secrets that should have, perhaps, forever remained hidden.

Yes, I did my research, and kept doing that research so I could realistically portray life. I dug beneath the surface of the characters to show their insecurities and loneliness, their sense of frustration, and the struggle they (or rather, one) endure when they realize that sometimes, love is not enough.



Tess said...

Now that's some seriously fun research. Honestly, Scott, your story sounds fun, energetic, fresh... good job.

And, I'm amazed you spelled 'purl' right. impressive.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Here's to more research that hands out more than a hangover. (BTW, you've got LOADS of great drinking analogies to use when you start querying..."Margarita Nights has a salty rim, goes down cool, but might just give readers brain freeze and a love hangover.") :)

Your book's plot sounds similar to mine, drawn from real life.

Lady Glamis said...

Great post on research! You story sounds very character driven, and that's always intriguing! Isn't it amazing how much research you have to do for that? It's amazing!

Oh, I've done the writer's diet. I lost 30 pounds last year on that diet. It totally works!

Rebecca Knight said...

Okay, the gayvine cracked me up. I'd not heard that before! :P

Your book sounds fascinating! I will absolutely have to read this when it comes out.

I'm a fan of people-watching as research and, of course, anything involving margaritas!

Scott said...

Tess - yes, the research was/is fun. I get all sorts of inspiration when I go out for margaritas.

Angie - I've thought of using drinking analogies in the query, just haven't done it yet. My query is out for public critique at The Public Query Slushpile: http://openquery.blogspot.com/2009/06/query-margarita-nights.html
Oh, and yes, a good bit is drawn from real life.

Lady Glamis - the story is character driven, which is why I tend to think of it as more literary fiction than commercial. The main force of the story is the decisions the characters must make to find their version of happiness, as well as the ramifications of those decisions.

Rebecca - see, you've learned something new today! : ) My friends and I always joked about the flow of information - telephone, telegraph, tell a gay man - in the community. I wanted to use that tagline in my PIQ and finally decided that gayvine (i.e., grapevine) fit pretty well. Who knew the inspiration a margarita, or two, could provide?


Angela said...

Sometimes *hic* you just gotta throw yerself inna that research. Happy drinking!

SJDuvall said...

Sounds like my kind of research! Man, if in school, research for novels had been the type we did, I would have liked it so much better (margaritas or not). Sounds like a good novel. Best of luck!

Glynis said...

Mmm, I am just trying to work out how I can get my Victorian, 20yr old seamstress to drink Margarita's. I am sure the research would be quite something LOL
Interesting post, thanks.