I’m in the process of selling my house.
After one open house, my realtor was in the process of shutting off all the lights and locking up when she entered my office library. A couple of days later, she asked my daughter, “Why does your mom have all those books about poisons, forensics and the criminal stuff on her shelf?”
I knew my daughter did everything she could not to laugh out loud. She calmly told her, “She’s a writer.”
My realtor was probably relieved to know that I wasn’t plotting to kill anyone–not in the non-fiction world anyway. It also might explain why she never accepted my offer to make her a cup of coffee.
The point of my story is twofold.
A novelist or author is like a journalist and like any investigative reporter worth their salt, their main objective is to answer the questions “who, what, when, where and how,” with concrete, factual answers. As authors, we have a little more flexibility when it comes to telling the story, but we still need to do our homework and research.
1) Although we’re encouraged “to write what you know,” I flip it around a bit and I make sure “that I know about what I’m writing.”
I believe in having a book that covers every subject. Though most of my books are packed away, a few still remain within arms reach. One of my books is about a pediatric nurse, hence the “Code Blue” book. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what went on in the emergency room from a nurse’s perspective. So, I bought a book for research and reference.
2) make sure your research bench is deep, on and off the shelf.
With my nurse story, I took it a step further and made an appointment to visit a couple of nurses at a nearby hospital in my town. There, I was able to get firsthand, what it was like in the emergency room during a crisis, what triage really meant and how they juggled their personal lives and saving the lives of others.
One of my heroes is a real estate mogul. Thank goodness my daughter is a real estate and mortgage subject matter expert! I was able to pick her brain on eminent domain and house flipping laws. With my real estate 101 course, I believe my story could withstand scrutiny from the most knowledgeable real estate professional (someone like my realtor, maybe?). 🙂
Ensuring that your research bench is deep both on the shelf and in the real world, will make your stories that more believable. And don’t be afraid to talk to people. Ask those burning questions! All they can do is think you’re crazy for asking. But once you explain it’s research for your book, it’s amazing how quickly they offer information.
And maybe they’ll even accept your offer for a cup of coffee.