Are you building your writing fortress? As writers a lot of action happens in our minds. We create characters, think up situations to put them in, and hope that what we write sounds realistic. To help with the realism factor, we do extensive research by sometimes going to the actual places where we've set our books, or we do what our characters do. This doesn't mean we have to build a fortress with mortar and brick, but we do need to have a certain amount of knowledge to build our stories. Gene Roddenberry didn't fly through space, and I highly doubt Stephanie Myers has kissed a vampire, but they knew how to write scenes with feeling and basic knowledge to make their stories real for their readers. Basic knowledge adds to your writing fortress.
Last night I added to mine. I write YA time travels and romantic suspense. My current book is another romantic suspense. Many times my main characters need to defend themselves by shooting a gun. In an effort to truly understand what it feels like to fire a weapon, I signed up for a class that would teach me how to shoot a shotgun, rifle, and handgun. I really wanted to do this, but I was scared out of my mind.
There were five other women in the class: a mother and her two adult daughters, a doctor, and a surgical nurse. We had various reasons for taking the class. As each woman introduced herself, I saw strong characters for future novels. The doctor traveled the world going to dangerous countries to give aid, so she wanted to know how to use a weapon. The nurse had traveled as well, and in fact, at one time had been taken hostage having a machine gun aimed at her. And the mother and daughters just wanted to know how to handle weapons for safety and protection. Then there was me. I didn't tell them that I was a writer. I didn't want them to act differently. Sometimes when people learn I'm a writer they become self conscious, or . . . I hate this . . . they tell me they have a story I should write. So I just said I wanted to learn how to handle a gun with confidence. The teacher said that was exactly what he was going to teach us.
We learned how to load and unload a handgun, how to aim, where to aim, and how to hit what we're aiming at. After two hours of instruction with the various weapons, we went to the firing range, put on safety goggles and ear protection, and then we were ready to actually apply what we'd learned with live ammunition.
I loaded the Glock, snapped the magazine (they only call them clips in the movies), cocked the gun, and I was ready. Holding the weapon within my hands and pulling it up to take aim, I prayed I'd hit the target. Squeezing the trigger, I was ready for the repercussion that jolted my arms as the bullet launched. I saw how smoke coiled from the gun barrel and smelled the cordite that hung in the air. I had hit the target and was filled with exhilaration because I had accomplished what I'd set out to do.
I now know how my characters feel when they pick up a gun, what they smell when the gun goes off, and how fear can be overcome with knowledge.
The reality of firing a weapon and how it feels will always stay with me. And believe it or not, I plan to go to the firing range as often as I can. I'm building not only my confidence, but my characters.
What have you done to build your writing fortress? What experiences make up the mortar and brick of realism in your story?