Friday, October 28, 2016

Shoes-on-the-Ground Research

One aspect of being a writer I enjoy a lot is the research. Lots of information can be gathered by spending time online. Now, the trips we used to take to the reference desk at the local library are reserved only for when we get stuck. Clicking links at the bottom of Wikipedia pages can sometimes be like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. Some can lead to obscure articles. But I have followed URLs and found original sheet music from the 1850s or playbills from a 1870s opera. This time what I wanted would be most easily gained from a visit to the site. I was already making the trip to Texas for a writers’ retreat so I tacked on a day before and after to conduct research.
first owner was Goldbeck who built cabin in 1854

1890 blacksmith shop

Last Thursday, I spent time in a small town named Comfort that I’ve kept in my mind as being the one I’ve used as a base for my fictional town of Dorado. I walked the layout of the real town, snapped some pictures of the historic downtown, and gathered what information I could. The series, Dorado, Texas, contains both contemporary and historical stories with ancestors, descendants, and entangled families.
Ingenhuett General Store 1881
Immediately following the acquisition of Texas from Mexico, immigrants came from Europe to settle the land. From 1845 to 1861, many towns were founded by German Freethinkers, who were mostly intellectuals who believed in reason and democracy as ways to create community, instead of religious and political autocracy. Some even held intellectual forums in Latin.

Freethinkers were advanced for the times in that they believed in an individual philosophy over religious dogma and advocated equal rights for all people with many working toward the abolishment of slavery. A respect for life and nature was an important part of their moral values. Secular education and organizations of various types provided social and cultural activities.

I've been away for four years and I'd almost forgotten the gorgeous cloud formations. I'd also forgotten about the wide variety of roadkill--skunk, opossum, deer, fox, raccoon, armadillo.

Now that I’ve walked the streets and gathered local literature, I know I will write the town with more details and accuracy.
I'd love to hear from others how important a sense of place is in the stories they choose.


  1. You get no argument from me on this type of research. I love walking the ground my characters travel. Doris

  2. I, too, think great settings help put readers right down into the story :)From book one of my Texas Romance Family Saga series, I put the family's "homeplace" on the 900 acre McAdoo Ranch just south of Clarksville, Texas where we live. It belongs to my brother-in-love and his wife,,,the other Carol McAdoo (b ut she has the "O" while my mama gave me the "Y" :) When my characters travel (by wagons and stagecoaches, we travel those same routes, so that the topography and trees are all correct. And I know most every bump and creek on the ranch, so it is accurate and I hope helps readers to get a good feel for where the characters live. The same area is carried into my Red River contemporary series :) I think that's just fun. Now I want to visit Comfort! And red about it in your Dorado series! Blessings!