Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Being There

I've written about research. I'm a research nut, diving into libraries or browsing the net, trolling for unusual facts, sidelights on places, stories on crime.

However, a wonderful way to research is to go there. Just go.

I've been to the areas of Florida I write about. Walked down the streets of towns I've never been in, notebook out, taking notes: the birds I see, the street names, the architecture, the cars, just everything. Noted the temperature of the ocean at various seasons. Simmered at the traffic (a motif that shows up more than once!) and so on and on.

Nothing quite substitutes for being there. You pick up on so many things that way. Once I walked into a tiny little used-book store in a small Florida town. The owner, alone behind the counter, wailed, "You missed him! You just missed him!"

Jimmy Buffet had walked out of the store a minute before I walked in. I said too bad, I liked his music, would have liked to have seen him.

The store owner said, "No, you don't understand. I wanted somebody else here because now nobody's gonna believe me!"

Saving that moment for a book I'll write one day.

If you document your research, you can count a portion of your expenses off against income tax, by the way.

My friend the late Tom Deitz would do that. He wrote fantasies involving Ireland and went to Ireland several times. Still, I told him once, "You can't recoup the whole cost of a two-week trip to Ireland from a tax write-off."

He thought about that and shrugged. "That's true," he said. "But on the other hand, nobody can repossess a trip."

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