The assumption that romance wouldn't require research is probably based on the perceived content: sex! Well, I don't know anyone, even book characters, that have sex 24/7. Characters have careers, some have disabilities, mental illness and a slew of other issues that the author has never experienced. That correlates to research.
Let's look at my most common research elements:
- Name. You research names? Every author does! And no I'm not just referring to babynames.com. Once I establish my characters race and lineage, I go out there searching. Example: Alexei Butovsky in Hollywood Giant. I knew his father's family was from Russia and the Ukraine. I researched first and surnames of the region and picked what I liked.
- Career. My characters have a variety of careers: civil attorney, physical therapist, escort, tattoo artist, physical trainer, psychologist, photographer and bartender. I research their career requirements, their daily duties and then I form activities for them around that (cases, patients, business opportunities etc..) and build those scenes with the research. Additionally, in the case of Law Enforcement or Medical Examiner, I contacted my local M.E. office via email. I got a reply and she was more than willing to answer all of my questions. I also enrolled in the Citizen's Police Academy ( I recommend this to anyone writing about LEO's)
- Disabilities/Mental Illness/Injuries. Some of my characters suffer from disabilities. I have a double amputee resulting from a car accident, a partial amputation resulting from an IED, PTSD resulting from war trauma, and other members with injuries from everything from work-related accidents, vehicle accidents to war injuries. Anything you encounter in the real world, will happen in a book eventually!
- Race/Gender. When writing a character that is not my race or gender requires research. Names, heritage, common religious beliefs, skin tone and other physical attributes, culture, influence, music and food! Yes food! Different nationalities have unique experiences with food growing up.
- Age/Physical Attributes: This is important. Say my character is 55, I like to write down where they were born, grew up, attended school and what was happening in the world as they were. This just helps with the overall characterization. Someone who is 45 is going to feel different about something than someone who is 21 or 69, but how and why? If someone has a sculpted body and works out a lot, is vegan, there is a reason they arrived at that philosophy. Know what it is.
- Hobbies/Interests: This is important as well. What your character loves to do and what they are good at defines them as much as physical attributes. I like to know these things about my characters: what music they listen to, their manner of casual dress, what do they collect?, what kind of vehicle do they drive? Do they dye their hair or hate to wear their glasses? All of these things can send a boring drab character leaping off the page. Your hero went from tall, dark and handsome, to having a single shark-tooth shaped flop of hair that falls on his forehead that he hates, to having an obsession with David Bowie, driving a huge Ford truck with fuzzy dice they found at a yard sale, collecting old hubcaps, playing an instrument (always interesting), to rebuilding classic motorcycles.
- Life History: Understanding your characters life is essential. My character may be 24 when the book begins, but I have to understand all 24 of those years and how it effected my character. This can include all sorts of research (domestic violence, behavior issues, grief etc.)
The manner of research varies. Most includes internet searches leading to blogs, forums, articles and then there is the focused research that includes reading non-fiction books (which is where I get most of my information), or getting out there and asking someone! People love to talk about their work, they really do.