Monday, February 6, 2012
Doing the Research
Four basic tasks take up my time: writing, research, critiquing, and marketing. One of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had is how much I enjoy the research. I’m not talking about computer research, although I do plenty of that. The fun lies among the people who’ve been there, done that, and will share what they know. Their stories are the sources for the evolution of some of my best scenes.
While writing The Quaker Café, here are a few of the people who guided me through my research: Quakers much more knowledgeable than I, an oncologist, a director at the Red Cross, a psychologist, an abstract artist, volunteer firemen, a hairdresser, a bridal shop owner, an Episcopal Priest, an estate lawyer and a gun expert.
While working on my second novel I’ve put even more time into one-on-one interviews. To date I have flown with a pilot who handed me the wheel in a Cessna Skylark, driven a tractor, made several visits to a root doctor, gotten basic instructions on the handling and shooting of a Colt 45, arranged for a date in juvenile court, met with both a judge and criminal lawyer, spoken with a drug task force officer, and made my first of several visits to a free range turkey farm.
I gather a lot of information, but often use only tidbits. I cut an entire chapter on abstract art, which I regretted since the artist had so graciously spent several hours with me. But I failed to tie the chapter into the arc of the plot, and too much background on a minor character can bog things down.
Similarly, an oncologist shared an abundance of his valuable time to exchanged phone calls and e-mails to help sift through a plausible progression and treatment of a deadly disease. Most was cut. Too technical. The medical terminology slowed down the reader.
After visiting Doko Farms last week, I thought of the amazing story to be told around that farm. Add a mystery somewhere in there, bones being dug up on the property, etc. etc. and there is a novel. But, that’s not what I’m about at this particular time, and while I will definitely use some of the information to develop my character, there remain many unwritten chapters.
So, I thought on my way home, “Why not include some of these interviews in a blog instead?” Therefore for the next several blogs, I am going to focus on some of the people involved with my research. What links them together is the fact that each one is passionate and committed to what they do and their enthusiasm is contagious.