So a while back, I was having some serious blocking issues with a few scenes of my WIP. You see, my characters spend a good ammount of time on a boat. I myself never having been on a boat, was undaunted by that because, after all, I am a writer. I make things up for a living.
But I was seriously struggling. Sure I could make it up…who was standing where and what it was like to have your hair flying in the wind behind you…but I started having the problem where I was telling instead of showing (yet another upcoming post). Because that’s all I could do. Having not experienced being on a boat and everything that comes with it, I ended up telling more about the blocking. And that is a problem.
Well, I am lucky enough to have a friend who is lucky enough to have a family with TWO speed boats and a houseboat on Lake Powell in southern Utah/Arizona. And back in October, she invited me along for the weekend! Aside from it being a GLORIOUS trip (without my kids!!!), I. LEARNED. SO MUCH.
Not only was I able to get the feel for the layouts of countless types and sizes of boats (boaters are really friendly people and any random stranger is more than willing to let you on his or her vessel to scope it out!), I was able to take away with me the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings boating can bring. Sure it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, but it was also an experience that has made my writing and descriptive scenes SO much better.
I was also fortunate to have my friend’s uncle (AKA Cap’n Kev, as I started calling him) ready and willing to answer any and every question I had. I learned common boating lingo (did you know you don’t park your boat at the dock? You tie it off in a slip!), and got prime instruction on how to drive. And drive I did. But as fun as it was, I had just as good of a time watching the other people driving and riding in the boat. Because, as a writer, that’s what I do. I show the characters doing what they’re doing…and what better way to do that than to have observed it?
Anywho, doing research is great. In any capacity. I’m not saying if you’re MC is a sky diver that you should go out and do it. (Unless you want to…tax write-off, right?) What I’m saying is a little research can’t hurt. For instance, in the very first chapter of my WIP, my main character hears a Bach song being played on a cello. Sure, I’ve heard Yo Yo Ma recordings before, but it had been a while. So as I was writing the scene, I simply pulled up a Youtube video of someone playing the particular song on the cello and listened as I wrote. Making your scenes more realistic for you as a writer can only help to make them more realistic for your audience.
So go. Research. Write.