I recently moved one of my key settings to a specific place in New York. The result was more positive than I’d expected. The characters were working better, the plot was knitting itself together well. Only a few more mere details needed smoothing out. I decided to make a quick site visit to refresh my memory. It would be a cinch.
Ah, beware those words. If there is any aspect of writing that can be described as mere, only, quick, just, or a cinch, I have not yet made its acquaintance.
You see, my site visit proved to me that at least one of my details is rather vast. An impregnable stone wall, actually.
I mean that literally. I found a giant stone wall which my heroes could certainly not have overlooked, leave alone climbed over.
There was nothing for it but to case out the joint. Get the real lay of the land. Both public and private. And as a bonus, gain access to a room that I suspected lay inside and hopefully the basement, too.
You might be sensing some of my minor issues here. But add these two to the mix.
- I cannot dissemble. Any emotion I feel, including discomfort with a lie, is instantly broadcast on my face in all known frequencies.
- I cannot fathom myself asking for this information because “I’m writing a book.” But how else can I gain the information I want?
So, robbed of both honesty and subterfuge, I spent about three hours trying to not look like I was scouting out the wall, trying to figure out how on earth my heroes could climb it. And I tried not to look like I was counting the doorways at the entrance, peeking into alcoves or memorizing the layout. This last is harder than it sounds; my sense of direction is apparently something I have devolved from.
One guard saw me so often, each time looking stunned to be entering the doorway I had appeared in, that we ended up chatting. I considered this super until I realized that when I come back to case the joint again, he’ll recognize me. I feel like a very sketchy sort.
Finally I found someone and asked straight out how to access that certain room, which was not only locked but also impossible to find.
“Do I have to be uber important or scholarly to get in there?” I asked.
The woman looked at me. “No,” she answered, finally. “Sometimes they let other people in too.”
Yes! I am an other person!
I have two numbers now to follow up on, but I’ve been dragging my feet. Inevitably, they’ll ask me why I want to know these things, and what I’m looking for in that room.
The truth is a lot easier to say when you’re not writing your first-ever book. It’s much easier when you’re published and you can just be an author doing research. (I imagine.) But when you’re just some dweeb off the street….