I think back to my childhood every time I find myself digging for more information. I loved school and learning. While math wasn’t a favorite and I struggled to be proficient in it, I understood it was necessary to learn the basics. In the fourth grade every evening while my mom and I washed and dried dishes, she would quiz me on the multiplication table. And today, I can pretty much spout out the correct answer with a few minutes to pull numbers out of my filled brain. 😉
Writing books has been my way of continuing to learn and fulfill my love of research and discovering new things. From the occupations my characters have:
Shandra Higheagle, my Native American potter character, gave me the opportunity to spend time with ceramicist Ted Juve, or Olaf, the name he signs to his work. He taught me the process of extracting pure clay from clay soil that he uses for some of his pieces and the method my character uses for her art pieces.
My character Gabriel Hawke allowed me to spend a day with an Oregon State Trooper with the Fish and Wildlife Division in the county where I have my stories set. That was an eye-opening day with lots of notes taken as we drove around the county. He gave me insights into the job and some incidents that he had been a part of.
My newest character, Dela Alvaro, is taking me into the world of Tribal run casinos and the life of a lower limb amputee. Both new things to me and I’m soaking in all I can learn from many different sources.
This month I am also taking an online workshop from a retired law enforcement officer. He has over forty years law enforcement and what I appreciate the most is he has worked with lots of different law agencies and knows a lot about how different states handle things. And if he doesn’t know, he knows someone who can give us the correct answers.
The workshop started out with him attendees some law enforcement information and then he gave us the first responders view of a murder scene. We are now not only learning the whole business of processing the area and starting the investigation but also being asked along the way who we think might have killed the victim and why. He not only has us using our minds to learn, but to be creative in what we think might have happened or how it would have happened if we wrote this in a book. I like learning two things at once!
This workshop came at a good time for me. I sent out my most recent finished WIP (work in progress) to my retired LEO beta reader. He found fault with three different scenes. Two, I will learn about from this workshop. The third…is harder. It goes to the core of being a policeman for decades. I was being too soft. My character isn’t soft, so I can’t have him acting like I would act. He is tough and knows when his life is in danger he must react as he’s been trained. Another lesson learned. Did I say I like learning new things?
The reasoning my beta reader gave me made sense. It just didn’t work for the scene to come later, so I had to rewrite the scene to keep my character from killing someone they needed to question. I had my LEO wounding the man. But with an AR rifle aimed at him, my character would have “tapped” the suspect three times. (tapped=three quick shots to the torso) Which would end up with a dead, or close to dead, suspect they needed to question. I changed the scenario to the suspect realizing he was shooting at police and surrendering. He wasn’t the bad guy they were after, which the police discover after questioning him. Whew! That scene was rewritten three times before my beta reader gave it a thumbs up.
But he also questioned my character never giving the people he brings in for questioning Miranda Rights. That is why I am taking this workshop. To learn more about that process and how I can incorporate it into the books at the correct time.
There is always a need to learn something. And I love drinking it all up and using it in books.
As a reader do you like to learn while you are entertained?
As a writer do you feel the need to learn and get things right in your books?