a blog on the craft of writing
Welcome to Moonday Madness on Jessica Aspen Writes. Today we have a special treat, author Brinda Berry shares how she did research for her very interesting YA novel The Waiting Booth. I’m just going to whet your whistle by saying it’s about “A missing boy, government agents, an interdimensional portal…” and as you’ll read here Brinda has included so much more.
Interview with a Synesthete
by Brinda Berry
There are many types of research that I conducted while writing the first book in the Whispering Woods series, The Waiting Booth. In today’s technological environment, most research can be conducted in the privacy of my own home. I have a library of information at my fingertips through resources found on the internet.
In a recent writer’s group meeting I attended, one author mentioned that she missed the days of interviewing people for information. Before the widespread availability of online resources, a writer would either telephone or visit an individual face-to-face and learn about a certain occupation or experience. The writer in my group mentioned being totally charmed by the helpful nature of one such person when she did some research about cowboys. (Get your mind out of the gutter. This was all very innocent.)
People love to share their knowledge and experiences, and it may be within reason to locate those experts. On the other hand, there is an alternative. I used YouTube to find interviews that would help me develop the main character in The Waiting Booth. I had already located written resources online about a condition called synesthesia, but I wanted more. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where two or more of the five senses are intertwined. For example, a person with synesthesia may taste colors and see musical notes.
I haven’t met anyone with synesthesia, but my main character, Mia, is a seventeen-year-old synesthete. I wanted to have a “feel” for her point of view as the story is written in first person. So, I went to YouTube.com and typed “synesthesia” in the search bar. How many videos are online about this topic? As of 9/27/2011 at 11:54 CST, there are 14,600 results. Are they all relevant? No, of course they aren’t. Did you know there’s a band called Synesthesia? I didn’t either. To filter those videos out of my search, I changed my search term to “synesthesia condition.” The results of that search listed 101 videos. Now, it’s a much easier task to browse the documentaries and other short clips that are more relevant to my research.
You can see by the number of views whether the video is a popular one or not. You can also determine if you think the source might be a reliable. Anyone can upload a YouTube video. The owner will be listed along with the number of videos uploaded by that person. Another interesting aspect was reading comments to certain videos. A warning here for you- comments may be not be moderated. Here’s a terrific example of a short video I came across today on synesthesia: http://youtu.be/KApieSGlyBk
In The Waiting Booth, I did take liberties by embellishing Mia’s condition of synesthesia with an extra ability to sense portals. The video listed above demonstrates how the synesthetes could see some things more easily than the non-synesthete, so I took that a step further. The YouTube videos gave me some great ideas on how synesthetes view the world. There’s a chance to see the emotions that might be tied to the subject’s answers, and I would miss that in a written piece. Seeing and hearing the video interviews made a huge difference in my understanding and the development of my character.
I’ve already used YouTube again in research for the second book in the Whispering Woods series. It’s a fun way to learn about people and experiences. The biggest risk for you as a researcher is getting sidetracked. YouTube videos can be so darned entertaining.
Brinda Berry lives in the southern US with her family and two spunky cairn terriers. She has a BSE in English and French and a MEd in Learning Systems Technology. She’s terribly fond of chocolate, coffee, and books that take her away from reality. She doesn’t mind being called a geek or “crazy dog lady”. When she’s not working the day job or writing a novel, she’s guilty of surfing the internet for no good reason.
We’re still celebrating October and my upcoming novella Little Red Riding Wolf (soon to be released from Passion in Print Press) with my Halloween Treats Contest! To enter just leave a comment for Brinda and I’ll draw a winner for today’s book Enemy Lover, by Karin Harlow (drawing announced Thursday October 13th). Don’t forget we’ll be drawing for 3 grand prizes on Halloween!
Saturday’s winner is Elaine Cougler! Congratulations Elaine and send me your address through my contact page and I’ll get your book to you!