Would You Go To Jail For Your Novel? by Carol Malone
Let’s welcome back author Carol Malone and learn what she has discovered on her author adventure this month. She had uncovered a unique aspect of doing research for your novels. Enjoy!
Would you allow yourself to be locked in an interrogation room and then slammed behind bars for the sake of your novel research?
Sarah Howery Hart; aka Susan Hart Hellman did just that for her novel, “Catch ‘n release: The Game.”
I learned about Sarah’s escapade at a lecture I recently attended where she was the speaker. The talented Ms. Sarah Howery Hart, who is a member of my local county writer’s group, a freelance magazine writer, a criminal psychologist, and murder mystery novelist, has done a number of mind-numbing exploits for the sake of enriching her writing.
In order to feel what her character would feel if arrested, interrogated and thrown behind bars, Sarah went to the local police station for research. The officer who met her at the front desk didn’t waste any time before locking Sarah in an all-white room with no windows and no mirror. When the officer finally came back, she added to Sarah’s feeling of panic and tension by asking if she knew they were watching even without a two-way mirror. Sarah learned dread in a big way.
After enduring that horror, the officer locked Sarah behind bars and left her there for several hours. Talk about realism. Sarah experienced first-hand the terror a suspect would be subjected to.
Her lecture series is called, “Becoming a Backpack Writer: Improving Your Writing by Getting Out From Behind The Desk.”
We aren’t going to be able to do all our novel research on the internet. We have to get off our butts, climb out of our office chairs, pack a backpack, and leave the safety of our homes in order to get up-close-and-personal research for the sake of enriching our stories. We want characters that pop off the page, and to have our readers sympathize for them. In order to do that, we need to be personally familiar with what they will experience. We must invest the time to do some exploration. Google doesn’t provide all the research we’ll need.
What I could have done better?
My novel, “Ladies Night,” is a tale of boxing and crime in Los Angeles 1950s. For the boxing research of the time period, I couldn’t actually jump in my “Wayback Machine,” and motor to LA, November 1954. I had to rely on some internet research. What I did was watch boxing matches from the time period on YouTube and keyed in the punching sequences as the fights were progressing. But what if I were to go to a boxing gym and watched boxers spar personally? What if I’d taken some boxing training? Would that help me make what my characters experience more real?
We need to go to the locations our stories are set in order to feel the same sensory experience our characters feel.
To get the most of the experience, Sarah suggests we need to use our SIX senses. That’s right. SIX senses, because intuition has a great deal to do with the spiritual make-up of our characters.
What drives our characters spiritually?
Are they into Tarot?
Ancient religions of the world?
Or are they just plain old Christians dealing in a sinful world.
Or nothing at all – skepticism
All of these ‘isms, make the characters lusher, giving them more emotional depth.
When we do field research, how will we engage our other senses?
We need to notice everything – example: love scene on the beach at sunset –
What do you see?
Where is the sun in relation to the beach?
Colors in the sky?
How does the sand feel between your fingers and toes?
Does it have a smell, a sea smell?
What does it look like as it filters through our fingers and cascades to the beach?
Do you dare taste it? Probably not. But you could.
Would it be briny tasting?
What do you hear at the beach?
The birds overhead?
The sound of the waves slapping the shore?
The sound of children running on the hard-packed sand?
What do you feel as you sit on the beach with your lover?
At the heart of Sarah’s talk was the need for a backpack.
Yes, that’s right, an actual backpack. How else are we going to go out into the world to do research? Sarah uses a backpack made of Ripstop Nylon – military grade, water proof fabric. Other items we might include in our research backpack: umbrella, flash lite, blow-up pillow, wet wipes, hand lotion, sunscreen, bug spray, small plastic ruler, plastic bags (for samples), matches or lighter (for the smoker interview), notepad, sales receipt book (in case we need to purchase or borrow something), water, power bar and interview release form for when we interview children. Perhaps a permission slip for a location that might be restricted.
How will we translate our on-location field research into our novels and give our readers a sensory thrill ride?
That is the trick. But you’ll be better prepared to do just that if you were there personally. If after riding along with the fireman on an emergency call with the siren wailing in your ear, you can now describe the fireman’s actions and their emotional responses in written form because you felt it, you experienced it, too. If you want deeper, richer characters, more thoroughly described settings, then GET OUT THERE!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carol Malone is passionate about three things – romance, sports, and writing. She combined all three in her 5-Star rated book, “Fight Card Romance: Ladies Night.” She became the first woman to punch her way into the all-male, pulp-fiction genre of boxing, and unloaded a mash-up of fist-pounding action, gripping suspense, and sweet happy-ever-after. Carol entices her readers to scramble into a front row seat for thrill-ride action or swoon to tender passion. If not hammering out new tales, Carol is reading, watching sports on TV, or hanging with her author husband on the coast of California. She loves to chat with her readers about sports and amour, so you’re invited to her website to sign up for the latest in Carol’s news and book releases. You can also LIKE her Facebook page, or send her a Tweet-N-Greet.