Things A Writer Can’t Learn from Research (post by Anna)
Things A Writer Can’t Learn from Research
I love research. Yes, I admit it. I am a research geek and proud of it. The librarian in me craves information, and the writer in me needs that information to flesh out my stories. But there are some things you just can’t learn from doing research. You need practical life experience. This is, to me, the true meaning of the adage “write what you know.” Here’s my list of my five favorite facts I could learn only by living them. (The first one happened just this morning!)
- Porcupine quills can cause trouble long after the porcupine is gone. Okay, a lot of you may have no idea what life in porcupine country is like. If you have dogs, you’ve got to watch out for the porkies, or you might wind up with an $800 vet bill (true story!). One of my now-deceased doggies got so many quills in him it took the vet two and a half hours to remove them. This morning, however, I learned porcupines can drop their quills, skedaddle, and cause problems the next day. A porcupine had gotten into my fenced yard yesterday, climbing into an apple tree, but one of my dogs got two quills in her mouth this morning. Turns out, the porky had left some quills on the ground. Luckily, my puppy let me take the quills out with no fuss.
- The wick from an oil lamp may not burn your dog. I learned this during a power outage a few years ago. While I was moving an oil lamp, a little glob of molten stuff fell off the wick and dropped onto my dog’s tail. He never noticed. I stamped it out with my slipper-clad foot.
- No hot showers when the power’s out. I once read a book by a well-known author in which the characters, who live in a remote area, were able to take a long, hot shower after the power went out. I’ve been in the shower when a blackout hit. The water pressure and the water temperature went down, down, down over the course of about a minute. No luxuriating in a steaming-hot shower for me.
- A flaming tree is really scary! Yes, I’ve seen one. One day I was driving home in the aftermath of a big windstorm (a November gale, we call them up here) and my usual route home was blocked by multiple downed trees. I had to take the long way around–and I came upon a tree that had been knocked over, its tip lodged on a power line. The tree was on fire. Right on the edge of the narrow road. A guy standing nearby waved me down and told me, “It’s okay, the line’s not live.” Hearing the power line wasn’t live did not soothe my nerves as I drove by mere feet from the burning tree!
- Ball lightning is real. I just watched a Weather Channel special about weather mysteries, and ball lightning was number one on their top 10 list. Maybe ten years ago, a violent thunderstorm went right over my house. It was hands-down the scariest storm I’ve ever experienced–and I used to live in Tornado Alley! I woke to see electricity from a lightning bolt streak across the side of my house, right outside my upstairs bedroom window. This was only a few feet from my head. The lightning was almost constant and blindingly bright. I’m not ashamed to say I was freaked out. I went downstairs to find a safer place to wait the storm. That’s when I glanced out the kitchen window and saw an hourglass-shaped, glowing object hovering about six feet off the ground. It hung there for a minute, then poof, it was gone. A shower of glittering sparks rained down from where the double-ball had been.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned firsthand. What weird things have you learned from real-life experience?