Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Write what you know
A writer is a leach.
I want to soak all the humor and trauma right out of people and laugh and cry over what was never mine to begin with.
However you label it, you have a story and I want it!
Last week I was working on my current manuscript while the Artist was on his computer. I interrupted three times. "Do cars use metric wrenches?"
The Artist: "The foreign ones do."
five minutes later. "Would you replace a radiator or a water pump first?"
The Artist "huh?"
five minutes later. "Do you park a Cessna in a hangar or outside?"
The Artist: "Depends. Outside is fine."
"What sort of drills do they do for soccer teams?"
The Artist: "Honey, what are you doing?"
"I'm working on my book and I have to know how to fix cars, fly planes and play soccer."
Long, long pause.
The Artist: "That's good. Write what you know."
Which is fabulous advice (even when your sarcastic husband says it in his deadpan voice and makes you laugh so hard you delete a page of dialogue) but there is a beautiful tool for finding out what we don't know-research.
Research. Sounds so dry and boring. I like to call it story time.
Something amazing happened after the success of On Little Wings. I got to add a little tag to my life. Now when I have questions I call total strangers in my apologetic voice and say, "So sorry to bother you, but I am an author and I would like to interview you for my next book." And then I sit down and people pour their stories into me!
Last night I spent several hours interviewing an Air Force Crew Chief and a retired fighter pilot.
I sat at a kitchen table between the two of them while they taught me yaw and pitch and pressure and flight controls and visual flight rules.
They told me about the Gs in a F16 and G measles that pop the blood vessels in your legs and how your heart goes into your stomach cavity. Literally.
I took the pretend yoke in my hand and he made me pull a plane out of a stall to make sure I understood the details.
"Not too fast!" he insisted as I pushed the stick in to level the nose.
I learned maneuvers, nicknames, soaked up a culture that fascinates me.
Next week I meet with a commander of the Civil Air Patrol and after that, I have a meeting with a car mechanic to learn how to change a radiator (I researched it for hours on youtube, but I want every detail to be accurate.)
So yes, write what you know. And learn what you don't.
Be a leach. Be a listener.
And then be a donor- give it all back. Give it all back and more.
Make it fly.