Ride Alongs, Doctor Calls, and Drug Busts: All in a Day’s Work
Last week I was at Fourth of July party and had an interesting conversation with an educated woman, whose husband is even more educated. Let’s just say they are in the medical profession. She was shocked when she found out that writers actually do research—not the book kind of research one might imagine, but that they actually call on experts and ask them questions. She didn’t realize this until a writer called her office to ask questions. The woman I was speaking with thought we simply made everything up.
Hmmm. I wonder how many readers think like that or simply never give it a thought. I mean we are mostly here to entertain readers—so I guess if readers are not thinking about everything that goes into the book, maybe we are doing a great job. And I kinda like the notion that readers think writers are a fount of information and don’t need to reach out to experts. But most of us consider research to a be big part of the job of writing—even when we are writing fiction. We still need to get the facts within the fiction right. It makes the story more believable. You don’t want your reader to stop dead in their tracks while reading and think “that’s not right” and maybe set aside the book because from that point on, it’s difficult for them to believe your story. Even though it’s fiction.
I’ve done all kinds of things in the name of research. And I usually do it while I’m writing or after. I fill in the gaps of my writing after I check out more specific things with my research.. I have police officers, lawyers, chefs, and doctors that I call on to answer questions. I’ve found that people really like it when you ask them for advice.
One of the things I’m most excited about is a conference that I’ll be attending this fall. I’m hoping to make a lot of contacts that I can call on. It’s beneficial for everybody for crime and suspense writers to get the facts straight. Even though I write culinary romances as Liz Everly, there is an element of suspense in them. (And I write mysteries under another name.) “The Writer’s Police Academy” will offer classes in forensics, self-defense for women, jail tours, patrol ride along, sessions on gangs and human trafficking. First hand knowledge. You can’t beat it.
When I Google “ride along,” this movie trailer came up and I have to say it made me laugh. Especially the part where the trainee shoots the gun (which I will not be doing, because I didn’t sign up in time). But I am in the lotto for a ride along and it’s serious business for which you have to sign a waiver and dress in decent clothes–not jeans and a t-shirt–because you don’t want to be confused with a suspect at any time. Here’s a clip from “ride along.”
What the craziest thing you’ve done for research?