Friday, December 01, 2006

Beyond the Computer

Yesterday, I talked a bit about opening hooks. I’ll continue with that tomorrow. But today, I wanted to switch gears because of something that happened last night.

I went to a holiday party. It actually was the first time I’d ventured outside all day. For two days now, Austin has been having icy cold temps with howling winds. My upper deck didn’t thaw out until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. And I’ve been without heat upstairs. Last night I slept in socks, sweats, sweater and blankets.

But before going to bed, I went downtown to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum for a party. I knew no one, yet still had a great time. Mostly that was due to my friend, Sally, who went with me. Despite the fact I was the client of the law firm putting on the party, Sally was the one who knew people. We ate, drank, talked with total strangers, and, the best part, got to talk to each other. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend two hours with Sally.

On the subject of writing, the event reminded me that when I tell new writers to do research, I usually mention the Internet and libraries and visiting cities where the book is set. I should also mention taking advantage of wonderful research opportunities right in your own backyard. If you’re writing a book set in Texas, go visit the Bob Bullock Museum, even if the manuscript is not historical. You can find out so much about Texas and Texans there. Whatever state you’re from, there’s probably a state museum somewhere close enough for you to visit.

The same is true for other areas you might need to research. For example, Austin now has the fabulous Blanton Museum of Art. If your book or a scene has to do with art, go to an art museum. You can learn terms and artists by searching online, but there’s nothing like seeing the real thing or experiencing the atmosphere of an art museum or an art exhibition.

If you have a scene set in a bar or nightclub, but you don’t frequent bars or nightclubs, grab a friend, date or spouse and go. You can’t just imagine the dancing, the barstools and the music, you want to smell the room, hear the chatter, and feel the pulse.

So, although it seems that nowadays you can find out anything without having to leave your desk chair, some things just have to be personally experienced and discovered. So grab a compadre and go for it.

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