"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hands-on Research by Wendy Ely

I suspect I met Wendy Ely via Facebook, although it wouldn't surprise me if she reads this and sends me an email saying, "Don't you remember? We were at that ...thing... together."

What I think happened was that either I got a FB Friend Suggestion saying that Wendy knew a bunch of my friends so we should be friends, too. Or maybe she got the suggestion. Pretty soon, we were Facebook Buddies, which was nice, since she posts funny and intelligent things, and doesn't bog me down with Ocean Critters, or Special Hugs, or quizzes written by teenagers to see what Twilight character I'm like.

(Note to everyone else: I don't mean to offend anyone here. But I just don't have time to join every cause and throw pillows and play Mafia Wars. I got sucked into Farmville, and now I feel guilty when my virtual cows go unmilked. Sorry.)

What really enamored me to Wendy was that, when I solicited other bloggers to exchange blogs, she leaped forward with such enthusiasm, it was like having a virtual labrador knock me down. It's a lovely feeling, to be that cyber-wanted.

So get yourself another cup o' joe, sit back and enjoy Wendy's musings on the old saw, to "write what you know."


The first bit of advice I received when I’d first started was to write what I knew. I thought about it for awhile. Kids, being a single parent, scrapbooking… and well, I wanted to write about something else. I wanted something new! Something exciting!

A plot idea became stuck in my head. It was going to feature the mafia, have lots of guns, and a hitman. The plot built itself while the characters came to life. How would I be able to write a book about the mafia when I hadn’t even seen a single mafia show, movie, and lack of knowledge of firearms? I thought I was sunk before the first line went down on paper but I had to write the book… it just wouldn’t leave me alone!

The internet is the easiest way to get the information but I’m sure most of you know that. When researching my mafia book, I looked up blogs for personal experiences, information websites, and medical sites on bullet wounds. Real estate websites work great in creating the setting if you can’t take a trip there in person.

The next step was getting the mafia feel of life. Without any knowledge of organized crime, I decided to watch anything I could get my eyes on about the mob. I read books, watched movies, and T.V series. I also knew I needed to touch a gun for the first time to really get the feel of it and learn how one works. I hopped on over to a local gun shop for a full demonstration from a clerk. I also took a workshop on firearms given by a homicide detective. It was awesome!

Once I learned that research doesn’t only come from the internet but can be hands-on fun, I enjoy it a lot more. Don’t be scared. Close your laptop and go learn something new today. Maybe the new skill will show up in your novel soon.


Wendy's bio: Wendy Ely has been drawn to the romance genre for as long as she can remember. It's no wonder reading and the ability to tell stories fused together. Her first contemporary romance, Jesse's Brother, was released in September. Confessions will be released in November. For more information about Wendy Ely or to read an excerpt, visit www.lyricalpress.com/wendy_ely


Nick Valentino said...

I agree Wendy! I love doing the hands on research. Heck, one of the best parts (if possible) is flying to the town where your story takes place and just wander around taking notes and pictures. It's honestly one of my favorite parts of getting to know the story. So big Kudos, especially about the shooting a gun part. Once you shoot one you gain a whole new respect for the weight, power and feel of what its like to fire a weapon.


Liz Kreger said...

Very cool that you educated yourself on something you knew nothing about, Wendy. Research can be a blast, can't it? Unfortunately a lot of writers allow themselves to get bogged down in the research and almost forget the story itself.

I did a book here in Milwaukee and it was lots of fun investigating the locations I wanted. Even though I'd lived here all my life, there was still a lot to be learned.

Anonymous said...

Great quote, "Don’t be scared. Close your laptop and go learn something new today." I need to get out more myself. Some of the best research is observed on the road of serendipity.

Stephen Tremp

AisForAutism said...

You got it Wendy! Research is not only important, it's sometimes a bit addictive. The more you research, the more you want to know. When I first started learning about autism, I ate up every library book. Then I found that books don't teach you everything - especially books written by people who don't fully experience what you are researching! Hands on learning and jumping into a a variety of environments makes one a more well rounded individual. Plus it's fun!!

Joanna Keating-Velasco

Lee Lofland said...

In September 2010 we're offering one of the best hands-on research tools of all time, the Writers Police Academy. The event is going to be held in North Carolina on the grounds of an actual police and fire academy and writers will have the opportunity to train just like the recruits!

We're offering workshops such as, weapons, homicide investigation, arson investigation, autopsy, patrol cars, explosives, firearms training, accident reconstruction, police tools and equipment, Tasers, pepper spray, and much more.

Gayle Carline said...

Oh, Lee, I'd love to be in North Carolina in September! Too bad I'm on the Left Coast - maybe if I get suddenly wealthy, I'll fly out.

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