Tuesday’s Scribe, PJ Sharon here. One of the things I love about my writing life is all of the fun new experiences I get to have while researching for my books. Last month, I took a day and drove the back roads to Albany so I could get a feel for the landscape, the drive time, and the city.
I’d never been to Albany, but it made sense for my dystopian story to have the main trading hub in the Northeast be located there with the Hudson River and the Erie Canal being so accessible. I had used tools like Google Earth, Google Maps, the Chamber of Commerce for Albany, and Wikipedia, but nothing gave me as much of a visceral experience as really being there. I wanted to feel what my characters might feel, see what they would see, and go where they would go. I wanted to know what the Hudson smelled like and how depressed the economy was. Overall, It was a great experience. I even got to meet the lovely ladies in the Tourist Information Bureau who asked me to make sure to contact them when the book is finished so they can schedule a book signing on site.
Along the same lines, I’ve thought about taking a gun safety course for quite some time. I’d taken one many years ago and done my share of shooting when I was younger, but at the time, with children in my house, I decided I wasn’t willing to take the risk of owning any firearms, so I never got licensed. Now that my kids are long past the age of living at home, and I’m writing about hill folk who own guns, I thought it was a good time to revisit firearms training.
When I first began writing fiction and I needed to know some details about guns and how to use them, I turned once again to the internet. I began studying types of handguns to determine what size and firepower would best suit my characters, what type of holster they might wear to conceal their weapon, and most importantly, what it would feel like to fire a pistol. Hundreds of YouTube videos later, I had the information I needed, but I was missing the most important parts of the experience. The tactile, visceral experience I vaguely remembered from my youth. The anticipation as you focus the front sight of your pistol on the target down range, the adrenaline rush as you begin to squeeze the trigger, and the sensation of power that kicks back as the gun discharges. Or even the pride you feel when you reel in your target and see how well you did.
You can’t experience that sense of satisfaction from a YouTube video. Gun enthusiast or not, every writer who crafts stories about gun-toting heroes and heroines should try firing a handgun at least once…with supervision of course.
In my effort to get some real hands on experience, my husband and I sat through a torturously steamy gun safety course this past weekend. That’s right, twenty-five people in a tiny room with no air conditioning for eight hours on a 96 degree day. Ick! It’s a miracle that the only shots fired were down range at the targets. Despite the less than comfortable conditions, I learned a lot about the law, (Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country), and did quite a good job on both the written and practical exam, scoring 100% and making some nice tight groupings in the black on my target. Like any new skill though, I have a lot to learn, and since I plan to continue writing stories about kick butt heroes and heroines, I plan to continue my training. I’ll be taking the next level course in a few weeks and will be looking into getting certified as an NRA “Refuse to be a Victim” instructor where I’ll actually be able to teach courses in personal safety and crime prevention.
Even though I started this new adventure as an adjunct to my research, I realized that I’m going to these lengths in part because I’m passionate about personal protection, but also because I believe that everyone should be informed and prepared. In case you missed my series on Self-Defense for Teens, Marian Lanouette has asked me to re-post it to her blog next week. Whether you are a fifteen-year-old girl or a fifty-year-old woman, it’s never too late to learn to defend yourself.
Aside from adding to my arsenal of personal experiences from which I can draw for my books, gun safety and personal protection have practical application that I hope never to have to use. But the reality is that there are dangers we all face every day.
If I can be a part of making the world a safer place for women by training them to be prepared to protect themselves, I’m all in.
And in response to Jamie Pope’s post yesterday about the steamy hunks of the big and small screen, I went home after seeing Magic Mike and gave my hubby a big smooch and told him how much I appreciate him. Because when it comes down to loving our heroes, don’t you agree? There’s nothing like the real thing.
What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done in the name of research?