Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Saturday, June 09, 2012

knowledge is power...and fun with rectums

Describe the research process for your book. Did you interview people? Travel? How prominent a role did the internet play? If you didn't do new research, how did you learn what you needed to know to write your book?

Oh, the powers of the continually amazes me. I'm going to date myself a bit, but it wasn't until I was in college that I started using the internet. That anyone started to use it really, other than one of my friends whose dad tested for Microsoft. So I clearly remember the days when I had to go to the library to write a paper...on actual paper, with a pen. Or reference our collection of encyclopedias. Ah, the good old days.

That said, I wouldn't go back. I don't know how instant access to everything in the world will impact the next generation, but I sure like it. One of my characters has pancreatic cancer. So with the click of a few buttons I can find out not only the medical aspect, but the personal one too, by searching blogs. Another one of my characters is in a band, so I can access tour schedules and figure out what city he might be in on what night, and also what it's like for a band in a van on the road (although I got most of my information from watching a behind the scenes Thrice those guys).

In my current WIP, one of the characters grows marijuana. And is arrested for it. I was able to find out when Cali legalized medical marijuana, and what his prison sentence might look like. I can also find out how far it is from San Fran to Sebastopol, CA, and the climate.

I'm not opposed to travel or interviewing people, though, even though I don't have the money to travel exclusively for my writing. I do get to travel a lot though, and feel very fortunate for all the places I've been. That said, I never let an opportunity pass me by. I will be going to Napa next month on a work trip, so I can check out the area then, take pictures, notes, whatever. And I can ask someone I know who rides in centuries (100 mile bike trips) how the process works exactly at the start and at the end so I can accurately describe my characters doing a ride. There are people who can tell you about just have to be willing to ask around. I hit up a guy who writes a Key West blog to ask him some specific questions about the island, even though I'd been there a couple of times. He was more than willing to help.

I want to be realistic in my writing but not overdo it. No one wants to know the gritty details of pancreatic cancer. Throwing in too many medical terms would only be annoying. But at the same time, people have the same access to information as I do, so you don't want to totally bung it up too, and have someone who rides in centuries say 'no way, that would never happen'. It's a fine line, definitely.

Then again, I'm a person who loves to learn - I read everything I can get my hands on and love nothing more than bouncing around Wiki and other sites just to learn about things. I can say with complete honesty that not a day goes by that I don't think of something to look up. Like I've recently become a bit obsessed with Skrillex and dubstep and went online to learn about him and the style. And the other day I was thinking about cinnamon. What does the plant look like? All I knew was the powdered spice and sticks. How does it grow? And as I've gotten more into yoga, I learned there's a technique where one expels their rectum, washes it by hand, and sucks it back in. Amazing.

And, welcome to the scary world of my always-on brain. Try getting that image out of your mind.


Julie Frayn said...

Yeah, image burned. Yuck...

There was no internet until my 30s. Talk about dating myself :). No computers in school, not even a decent electric typewriter. But I love that web! I know the technical intricate details of how to shoot heroin. Must have got it right, since a couple of people who've read the book said, I didn't know you did that. Uh, I don't.

I do want to travel for my next story. To get inside a particular church and feel the walls and pews, smell the air, hear the silence. Can't get that on the internet.

Jen Chatfield said...

You're so right. I can't wait to get out in Napa and smell the air, see the trees and the vines, experience the people. Life definitely trumps the internet any day.

Jo Michaels said...

OMG!! No you didn't! Yeah... Now it's in my head for sure. Thanks for that lolol!! I liked your post today. I wish the universe would drop me funds enough to travel for research!! Can you say, "Tax writeoff?" :)


Laura Orsini (aka Marcie Brock) said...

Loved this post ... until the ... er ... rectum part. No, really. Loved all the detail about your process. It's fascinating to hear how everyone goes about putting their book and concepts together. Thanks for sharing, Jen!