We’ve been talking about research, why you need to do it and where some good places are for doing it. But have we talked about real, live research? This comes in the form of interviewing experts and just plain good old observation.
I’ve mentioned different places where you can go to scope kids out, and this is the MOST important part of all the research because you really need to KNOW your kids. I mean, think about it…
If you’re writing about Spider Man, you’d better know that he’s a Marvel action hero, and not DC, right?
And you should know video games… ever played one? What platform? And is it co-op or single player? What do the controls look like? Is it a platforming game or what?
All that kind of stuff is important, and if you’re writing for kids, you’d better bone up.
But also listen to how they talk. I remember sitting in a McDonald’s one morning. I had just dropped Shannon off for preschool and was waiting for the Toys ‘R Us store to open so I could do some Christmas shopping. So, I always had a pen and notebook with me — always, and you should, too. Anyway, that day, I just say copying down some snippets from what kids were saying, to illustrate how they speak, and what came of it was a short story that I sold the first time out.
Research doesn’t just bring helpful information for writing, it brings ideas, and well… you can never have enough of those, right?
So, do it! Get a cup of coffee, sit in McDonald’s, and just listen. Copy down what you hear. Or, go to the mall and sit on one of the benches. You’re bound to hear the teeny-boppers as they go through a normal “mall” day. You can rent videos game systems and video games. Find a place that does that and see what kids are all about.
Believe me… adding details to your stories and articles that kids can relate to is half the game.