Resources for Writers.

Resources for Writers. Humm.

I was really scratching my head over this topic for our blog during the month of November. There are more resources available to us than one can possibly imagine. We have resource books, research books, the Internet, even movies can show us how to become better writers.

Today, I want to talk about a resource EVERY writer has.
The writer.
Yes, the invaluable resource I'm talking about is you.

When I wanted to know the symptoms of appendicitis, I called the local hospital emergency room, explained that I was a writer and asked if there was someone available to talk to me. Before I knew it, there was a doctor and an ER nurse happily telling me how to diagnose and treat appendicitis. Yep, all I had to do was ask, and this was long before I was published.

In my most recent novel, I needed information about nurse midwives. My nephew is married to a nurse midwife, so I did have a special in, so to speak. But what I really needed was information from an Ohio nurse midwife, because laws on midwifery vary from state to state. In this instance, the Internet and e-mail became my best friend. After searching for an Ohio midwife in the area about which I was writing, I contacted the clinic via e-mail, explained I was a writer, and soon had the phone number and e-mail address of the midwife happy to answer any questions I had.

I have interviewed, The Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard at Fort Riley, Kansas, the sheriff and police chief of Council Grove, Kansas, a nurse midwife in Millersburg Ohio, a cowboy, a rancher, a cattle buyer, an 1860's reenactor and a fireman. Talk about more information than I could possibly use. And all because I asked.

People can give you insight and information that you could not uncover by reading. Their anecdotal stories can give your writing an authentic flavor. You can learn terms and procedures that add realism to your characters. So when you're doing research for your heroine’s or hero’s job or just need information about a different part of the country, you can be your own best resource tool. Don't be afraid to ask.
Who has been the most interesting or helpful person you've talked to and why?


Reese Mobley said...

Your natural ability to get information out of your sources certainly adds an air of authenticity to your books. You have the gift of gab and are not afraid to use it. (grin) I get nervous and tongue-tied. Any tips for the shy writers?

Pat Davids said...

I do have a suggestion. Pretend you are someone important and they will think you are.

You can do that or you can simply be yourself. A nicer person would be hard to find.


Rox Delaney said...

I vote for Pat's first suggestion. All that theater stuff I did long ago comes in handy. :)

Sometimes being me just isn't any fun.

Rox Delaney said...

Hey, Reese, let's pretend we're Pat!

Becky A said...

I'm with Reese. Talking to strangers isn't my forte but I have slowly improved over the years. (I hope!) Do you think it's mostly the personality of the person asking or do people just want to talk about the things they know? Do you feel that most just want to be helpful? I think it would be easier for me if I can get a feel for why you think they are so ready to help. Did any of that make sense? I always feel like I'm imposing to ask others for information. Am I overthinking things or did my mother go a little overboard with what is and what isn't polite?
Thanks for the thought provoking post, Becky

Pat Davids said...

Rox, you may pretend to be me anytime. Can I forward you some bills while you're being me?

I think there are two reasons people are so helpful.

1. Most enjoy their jobs and love having the chance to talk about what they do. It makes them feel important.

2. They are a little in awe of writers and are flattered to be asked to contribute to a story. How often does that chance come along in life? Not often I imagine.

I do make a point of having a half dozen quesstions ready so I'm not floundering in case my charming personality isn't enough.

I usually ask what made them chose their job, what is the funniest thing that has happened on the job and what is the hardest thing about their job.

All these questions relate to character motivation.

Becky A said...

That helps a lot, thanks Pat.

Joan Vincent said...

You are so right, Pat. I've had remarkable luck getting the information I needed just by asking. I often contact people in the UK by email or from the contact button on websites. I've always gotten more information than I asked for and made some new friends too. People are passionate about things and if you ask them about their passion they'll do anything to help.

Penny Rader said...

I loved your post, Pat.

I had lots of help when I was writing Sapphire and Gold. One person in particular was a pharmacology professor in Boston. He answered tons of questions and pointed me towards helpful resources.

And while I was never able to visit Colonial Williamsburg, their librarians sent me a terrific list of books. They also put me in touch with someone who helped me plot out how Derek and Alexandra (and the ship's crew) traveled from Philadelphia to Williamsburg.

The secretary of the Newfoundland Society sent me scads of info that helped me create Max.

So, yep, most people are wonderfully helpful when you ask them about their jobs, etc. Well, except for one firefighter. I had a warehouse fire scene and needed info as to what it would be like. His answer: Hot and smoky. Then again, maybe I didn't do enough homework ahead of time in order to ask intelligent questions.:D