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Friday, August 26, 2016

Hands-On Research #michelezurlo #RB4U

Writers often live vicariously through their characters. In writing an emotional scene, maybe they’re working through some internal angst of their own. Sometimes we write scenes for the exact same reason readers want to read them—because we’d like to experience something without having to leave our house. This summer I took a different approach. On our family vacation, I scheduled some activities in which my heroine, Tru Martin, engaged.
In Re/Viewed (Doms of the FBI 6, available November 2016), Tru is an adventurer. She loves getting out there and doing things, which is the exact opposite of me. However when the chance arose to do hands-on research, I seized it. In the novel, Tru skydives, dead-air drops from a balloon, and BASE jumps. Those are things I’ll never do because I don’t have a death wish and I’m afraid of heights.

Crater Lake--Pictures don't do it justice. It's a long drop to the bottom, so I only peeked over for short periods of time.

But she also kayaks along the Pacific coast, explores caves, and goes white-water rafting. These are things I was willing to experience. I’m the kind of geek who loves geological features, so I went to Oregon Caves. They’re made from marble, and the archeologist who led our tour was great about giving history and answering all my questions. This didn’t lead to changing much in the draft because I have an earth science certification, and I have been to a lot of caves in the US. This one, though, was carved from marble. The picture shows a strike-slip fault visible in the ceiling of the cave. (The reflection of the flash looks pretty cool.)

Next we went white-water rafting along the Rogue River. I’d never been, and I had a blast. Our guide, Patrick, was helpful with explaining everything having to do with the raft and the river. I went on a different river from my heroine, but this experience still led me to make some major revisions in that part of the story. For starters, the guide does most of the paddling work. At one point, Patrick dove out of the raft and told me to practice steering. There’s nothing like paddling a 6-person raft with huge, heavy oars to remind me that I don’t work out, and that my left side is significantly weaker than my right. We didn’t take pictures of this, but if you get to southern Oregon, I highly recommend going white-water rafting. The Rogue isn’t a difficult river, and there was plenty of time to stop and swim. I’ve included a picture of the Rogue River we took where it disappears into a lava tube and spits out about 30 meters downriver. (And, as an added bonus, this picture captured a rainbow.)

Lastly we went on a kayaking excursion that ran along the coast in central California near Van Damme State Park. It explored the coastal flora and fauna as well as ducking into several coastal caves. This was not the excellent experience I’d anticipated, but I blame Wife. On the ride there she delighted in taking a winding road that left me car sick. Once on the ocean, I lasted forty-five minutes before I fed the fishes. It’s been almost 14 years since the last time I vomited (during pregnancy). Otherwise it was great. This one also led to minor revisions. For starters, the coast of California where we were was not at all warm. We also didn’t take pictures of this, but I’ve included the picture we took of our first glimpse of the mighty Pacific.

These experiences served to make my writing richer and authentic. While I don’t feel the need to do everything my characters do, it was very cool to tuck a few new adventures under my belt.


Paris said...


Great post!I have a bookcase full of research books that have served me well but I loved hearing about your adventures. Your hands-on research sounds like fun:)

Jane Leopold Quinn said...

You're a heck of a lot more courageous and adventurous than I am so I give you great credit. I had no idea there was a cave carved out of marble anywhere in the world let alone in the US. How beautiful that would have been to see. I'm glad you had such a great vacation.

Michele Zurlo said...

Hi Paris,
I do a lot of research on the internet and with interviews, and that's worked well for me. But this was a lot more fun :)

Michele Zurlo said...

Hi Jane--I didn't know it was there either. Wife found it on a map (we love visiting National Parks) and looked into it. After that, we added it to the trip itinerary. We're thinking of going back in a couple of years and doing their private cave exploration tour into the parts that aren't commonly seen. We have to wait for the kids to be old enough first because they want to go.

Cara Marsi said...

Beautiful pictures. You're more adventurous than I am. I can't swim and am deathly afraid of deep water so I admire what you've done. I love to write about the places I've traveled to also. Yes, we can do research online but it's more realistic if we've been to the places we write about.

Judy Baker said...

I really enjoyed your post and the beautiful pictures. You're a lot braver than me - I'd never kayak especially on the ocean! But, I do enjoy caves. Thanks for sharing.

Melissa Keir said...

Congrats on doing some things which are frightening for you (they are for me too). It's fun to get the real life experiences that you write about!

Michele Zurlo said...

Hi Cara--I love water. I live on water. We have a beach and kayaks in the backyard, so that didn't seem very adventurous to me, but I guess everybody's different.

Hi Judy--I urge you to try it. You never know--you might like it!

Hi Melissa--I wholeheartedly agree.
Thanks for stopping by!

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