One of the best forms of research, when trying to get your facts straight in your ﬁction, is calling the experts to check them out. Because they do it for a living they often have insights, anecdotes, and special lingo to share which will bring a realistic, emotional tone to your writing.
A good example of how checking facts with an expert helped a book turns up in my novel, Kill Cue:
“Harrison Taylor Dean opened the mahogany box filled with expensive, handmade cigars from El Sol in Ybor City. He took out an Emperador, cut the end with a stainless steel knife, and lit it with a solid brass lighter.”
When I wrote that paragraph in my secret draft, I didn't know what kind of cigar was both expensive and hand-rolled in Ybor City (a Latin section of Tampa, Florida).
Guess what I did?
Don't be afraid to talk to the experts. Tell them you are writing a novel and they will usually be delighted to help you. Often they are glad for the chance to set you straight. (By the way, record your conversation with them whether you talk to them in person or on the phone.)
You'll learn more about what it’s like to be an airline pilot by talking to a pilot then you will ﬂying by the seat of your pants.
Friends with an expert’s knowledge can frequently help you work out your plot problems; if you present them with the situation, they may be able to think of a solution which would never occur to you. Don't worry about imposing on your friends. People usually like to help writers in their own area of expertise. It’s ego food.
Speaking of food, one year at the Florida Suncoast Writers Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, while waiting for the ice breaker to begin downstairs, my friend Terry Hapner and I sat in her 5th ﬂoor hotel room discussing her job as a server at an expensive restaurant in Longboat Key.
She said, “When food is put in the window for the servers to take to the tables the chef usually says ‘Food. Innuendo!” I wrote that down to use in a book someday. She also said that someone vacuuming the rug at her restaurant is said to be “Hoovering.” A little anecdote like that can add a feeling of reality to a character in your novel.
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