Saturday, May 3, 2008

Book Research, aka my friend Annie Oakley

Book research can be enlivening and fun! Especially when one has friends just as bizarre as me, who agree to help choreograph certain scenes. I have such a friend. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call her “Annie Oakley.”

Annie Oakley has a 38 revolver. Annie Oakley’s cousin has a 22, 25, 38, and a 45.

The only gun I’ve ever seen or held was a toy one when I played cops/robbers as a child. I had no idea how much they weigh. I had no idea how one felt if pressed in my side. What’s the best gun in a crowd to get someone to come with them? What’s the best position so the gun remains unseen? What’s the best angle to scare the person you’re aiming it at?

I have several of these scenes in book 3, the one I’m currently editing with that familiar red pen. I’d guessed at the best way to write these scenes in my head. However, after playing with Annie Oakley’s (unloaded, of course—I am not an idiot) guns, I learned the scenes in my head were completely unrealistic.

This is why it’s imperative to do authentic research when you can.
Elaine’s disclaimer: Never do anything remotely dangerous with someone you don’t know or trust. I’ve known Annie Oakley for 10 years.

The evening was so much fun! Three of us, standing in different positions in the room, saying things like, “Oh! That will work! Come stick that 22 in my rib cage and we’ll try that!” and “No, that’s unrealistic. Back up five feet and aim the gun at me.”

At one point, she sat 3 feet away, aiming her 38 at me so I could get the feeling of being at gunpoint. But Annie Oakley owns 3 Pomeranians. So I’m looking down the barrel of her gun, her fixed face aiming it at me. And along side her, I see 3 puffball dogs. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, wishing for a camera. German Shepherds, perhaps. Pomeranians? Made it seem a bit surreal.

What all writers want to attain is that emotional core. Not just list details, but relay experiences and extract emotion. Fortunately, after several mix and match scenes, I found the perfect moment which did it. I never could have arrived there without their help.

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