Friday, December 15, 2006

Research ~ Using Actual Experiences In Your Writing

<= Book Cover
Picture of Guatemala landscape taken by author=>

Hi, all! Today is Friday and time for announcements, so I thought I'd share that "On Danger's Edge" will be in print in FEBRUARY finally! The second book of this series is also out in e-book. "Intimate Deceptions" is out with Cerridwen Press ( Just look under "new releases."

More importantly, I thought I'd share a post I've done previously. It highlights On Danger's Edge, but really it shows how much you can use your experience in writing -- even action/adventure ~ so, always, enjoy! ~ Lise
I think people sometimes wonder how writers come up with the things they do, especially when they're not real experts about certain subjects. I mean how many of us have been cops or CIA operatives? Very few. However, there are several methods one can use. You can talk to an expert, do research in various libraries, etc -- or online. There's an incredible amount of information you can find online, however, beware that you should verify the source and whether or not its dated.

But there is also this method. Do it and figure it out for yourself.

Now I write romantic action/adventure. A lot of my stories have military heroes or some CIA connection. Right now, the series I'm working on, Dangerous Encounters, of which On Danger's Edge is the first book, has each of these elements as well as terrorists trying to infiltrate the US. Yes, I have guns, bombs, and other things for which I have no experience. And yes, I did a lot of research, especially using my husband's military background, when I wrote the book. I feel very confident in my resources. And when I write my books, I try to make them as true to life as I can, because I believe when you do that as a writer, you get people to buy more easily into the fiction aspect.

Monkey Stelle,

Now, On Danger's Edge takes you into the jungle ~ it's kind of a "Romancing The Stone" (an old movie) with a military hero. When I drafted it, I really only had my husband's military jungle experiences to base it on. (He was in the area of the story ~ Panama ~ at one time.) But I wanted to "feel" this for myself as well. So what did I do? I had the opportunity to go down to Guatemala a year ago and work on a new Mayan dig. It was fascinating, but more importantly, I really got the feel for the place and the people. We were located in a very small "finca", a farm area that had been a coffee plantation at one time. This plantation had been established and run by the Germans who built a watering system that still exists and is used heavily today. It still even powers the steam equipment in the old manufacturing plant and in the coffee processing plant. And everything--the plantation house, the factories, etc. was built in the mid 1870's ~ a definite statement to advanced engineering for the time.

Factory Equipment still in use.

So here we were, in the middle of these really old 'advanced' engineering things, sifting dirt to find even older mayan pottery, watering systems and other treasures, in a VERY small village with people who didn't speak any English, and in a country where some of these people fought on either side of the ethnic purging war they had only a decade ago and where touristas like us could go missing in a heartbeat, AND in an area where volcanoes are very prevalent. It's a harsh existence these people live, at least by our standards. You hear the stories of people who have left, trying to get to the US, and their families haven't heard from them in years. Water was rationed. There were times we didn't get any aqua to bathe after a filthy day in the dirt and all the water we DRANK had to be purified. You couldn't even brush your teeth without purified water. (But no worries on the bathing! It rained every afternoon as we were down during the wet season, so we took advantage of the FREEZING COLD water and bathed outside our one room living quarters.) It was an amazing trip, and I could go on and on about it.

Volcano that spewed regularly near the town
where we stayed

But the point is, sometimes, when you make the opportunity, you CAN experience exactly what you're having your characters go through. Right now, I'm working on the third book in the series. It takes place in Colorado and guess what? A freakish snow storm hits and traps our hero and heroine. Now, I live in Colorado...oh yeah, see where I'm going?

They say you should write what you know. Now frankly, knowing some things with personal experience is impossible. However, not always! So make the opportunities when you can.

Many blessings and thanks for reading, and as always, enjoy the adventure!


Visit Lise's Fitness & Writing Adventures blogs at: &


Alyssa Day said...

I love this post! Even with paranormal characters (obviously I could never visit Atlantis, lol), I work in responses, emotions, and reactions that are those I know and have experienced. And I love, love LOVE travelling for research! I'm a huge fan of realism rather than relying only on book or internet research. Now ask me about the alligator farm I visited once . . .

Terry Z McDermid said...

What great pictures and a wonderful experience!! I'm a firm believer in being prepared for whatever comes your way. . . and then taking advantage of it. Write what you know doesn't have to be limiting, in fact, I love having to 'know' something else to make my story work. One reason I gave passports to my children for Christmas presents. Who knows where we'll need to go?!?!

Christie Craig said...

You are so right, Lise. Life is an adventure. And I think as writers we tap into our experiences, our surroundings, and our near misses.

Years ago, I lived in L.A. and worked in a Pizza Hut in a crazy part of town. I will never forget the day I was held at knife point by a purple-haired homeless guy, while my thirty-minute time-locked safe was set to open. Then before the safe opened, two men, who looked dirtier and meaner than the robber, barged into the restaurant and pointed a gun at me and told me to get behind the counter. Well, I pretty much kissed my pizza-slinging butt goodbye. I mean...who would survive being held up by two different sets of robbers at the same time?

But as luck would have it. The two mean looking dudes were undercover cops. To this day, I blame the whole Pizza Hut incident on my need to write humorous romantic suspenses.