I try to visit the places I write about. If I can't, I request material from the area's Chamber of Commerce on history, plants, birds, and rivers.
I read as many first person accounts in historical museums as people write about growing up in a region. Hunter and fisherman stories are some of the best because they are so tuned into the landscape and usually very detailed reporters concerning how to find a trail through the Everglades or where to locate fresh water in the swamps.
Ebay is a great place to find people passionate about particular subjects, such as early photography or the St. Louis World's Fair. You don't have to buy the items to view the pictures. That helps create authenticity in a scene.
The book, "Structuring the Novel," by Meredith and Fitzgerald suggests answering three questions before writing, which I always do: What is my intention, what is my attitude, and what is my purpose. I may take three pages to answer each question, but I whittle them down to one sentence each that I put on top of my computer. When I'm lost, I can look back at my three answers and take the next step.
2. When creating your characters, how do you keep track of so many personalities?
Ron Benry, author of, "Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction," offered people involved in a Christian novelists list serve, a little program he developed. I think he's done something much better now, but I still use this one. Prior to this program, I had a page in a notebook for each character. As the character developed and began using a phrase like, "Oh, hiyah!" for frustration, I'd jot it down. I also have boxes of files for each book that might include photographs of the actual person or a photograph of an anonymous person who fits my mental description of that character and any other details that deepen the characterization.
We'll pick up the thread of this interview next Wednesday, 8/12/09.