Now I Know Everything — January 20, 2011

Now I Know Everything

Okay, not really.

But I know a little bit about a lot of things.  This week I’ve been talking about my process of writing what I know.

My main character in Lodestar, Derek, is many things.  He’s a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, an astronaut who serves on the ISS, a fencer, an archer, a son, a hero.

A good chunk of the novel takes place in outer space.  There are scenes on the ISS, scenes in the NASA training center, a scene in a fighter plane, scenes in restaurants.

When not in space, my characters are in Texas, Florida, D.C., Atlanta.

I’ve been to Disneyworld and Washington, D.C.  I’ve never set foot in Texas or Georgia.  I’ve never been on the vomit comet, I’ve never been inside the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.  I’ve never been out of Earth’s atmosphere.

So, how can I write about any of this?

Back to Wikipedia!  Woot!

Seriously, city information is great here.  Easy-to-read lists of local restaurants, demographic and geographic information.  Stuff that doesn’t necessarily make it onto the tourism site for the given city.

Lists of Air Force bases and stations, what wings are stationed there, etc.

A list of fencing terms, archery terms, college information that is readily accessible and in one place instead of having to search through hundreds of pages on a university’s website.

My next step after all this was to head for the bookstore.  Three books became my indispensable companions in writing:

Astronomy for Dummies (which then also led to Wikipedia for even simpler terms for some things).
Space Exploration for Dummies (taught me everything I need to know about NASA)
The Civilian’s Guide to the U.S. Military (helped me make sure all interactions were up to snuff)

I used the website “How Stuff Works” for additional research.  I sat in the cockpit of an old fighter plane and talked the guide’s ear off about the dials and controls.  She told me about updates to the interior for modern planes.  She asked me if I’ve been in a flight simulator.  (Said no, but inside I was screaming “How do I get in one of those?”)  I desperately want to go on the vomit comet.  I’d love to take fencing lessons and archery lessons to have a good feel for the motions.

But I can research what I don’t know from personal experience.

What Do I Know? — January 19, 2011

What Do I Know?

Yesterday, I talked about how boring my fiction would be if I took “Write what you know” literally.

Literature would be so boring if we could only write what we’ve personally experienced, right?

So here’s what I know.

I know how to do research.  And today I’m going to share with you my process for the research I did on Lodestar.

In the beginning was an idea.  I had this tickle of an idea to write a paranormal story.  I knew I didn’t want to write about vampires or werewolves.  There are plenty of stories cornering that market.  Besides, neither has ever much interested me.

So I set about doing my legwork.  First, I turned to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures for ideas of a type of paranormal to write about.

My list came out at 8 classifications of creature.  Angels, elves, fairies, leprechauns, mermaids, nymphs, pixies, and sprites.

I took this list to Wikipedia.  I know, not a great source, but it worked.  I looked up each one in the encyclopedia and read all the entries.  I narrowed my list further and further until I came up with my top 3 finalists: angel, fairies, and elves.

Then I left the possibility to simmer before further research could be done.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next step in my research.

Write What You Know — January 18, 2011

Write What You Know

We’ve all heard it before.  It’s possible I’ve even blogged about it before.

But I’m going to address it again today.

Write what you know.  What exactly does that mean?  It can’t be literal, can it?

I sure as heck hope not.  Because if I could only write what I know, I’d have a bunch of single female characters who like to read and write, dabble in golf and photography, and once rode horses.

My characters would all sit around in their apartments wondering if they’re ever going to meet someone, hoping that when they do the relationship comes without drama.

My characters would all be nerdy and self-conscious, aware of all their flaws, and all have lost a parent.

This would get really boring, wouldn’t it?

Which is why tomorrow and Thursday, I’ll tell you how I write what I know, how I interpret this little “rule” that circulates through the writing community.