I thought about this topic several weeks ago when outlining a chapter to put at the beginning of Mallory Petersen's next adventure, Delta. In the story she meets a classmate about halfway through the story. When I wrote the first draft, I thought the scene worked, but after reading it to a critique group, and discussing it with a friend, I decided I needed to introduce the classmate earlier in the book. The character plays an important role and I didn't think it would be fair to the reader to throw her into a later chapter. The plot would be more believable with an earlier appearance.
To introduce her, I had to write a scene near the beginning of the book and I mulled over the problem days before I decided to have Mallory visit the local casino. I've visited the place numerous times (and have even won a bit of money on occasion) but I wanted to have more information the place. When I called the public relations person, introduced myself, and told her what I was working on, she declined my request.
Wait a second, let me back up. I have to admit I probably didn't present myself over the phone as well as I could so I'm partially at fault for not making a good first impression. I mentioned I wanted general information regarding the history of the place, size of the property, and mistakenly asked of information regarding security. I know. I know. They're not allowed to give that kind of information but I wasn't asking for sensitive information like numbers of cops, shift change times, or the schedule of the money transfers. I didn't want that. I wanted general information, maybe throw her a scenario or two that Mallory could have-that would not require private information-but I didn't get that far. The PR rep said she works with media people when they come a'callin' for news stories, but she'd never received a request for information from a fiction writer. Then she said said something along the lines that it wasn't the policy to grant requests like mine.
Okay, so I was confused by the two statements and I believe she was confused as to what I was and what I wanted.
Anyway, this had me thinking about past research endeavors. I like to visit the sites I put into my books. I jot down as much information, descriptions, and details as I can. I'll take pictures (or have my friend take them because on one jaunt I didn't have a camera. I do now.). I'd rather have too much information than too little and need something later.
I've been doing research for many years and I can recall only four times I've been rejected. Most of the time people are very nice, will talk with me, answer my questions, and I come away happy. The police are extraordinary if at times busy to get into too much detail. A fireman I spoke with gave me some important information that had I not obtained would have had readers writing me nasty emails. A business owner was so sweet I remembered her by putting her into Alpha. (Not her personally, but her personality.)
I mentioned in interviews that one of the reasons I travel to sites is because things can happen and I may meet people I can add to the story. The time I crashed a quinceanera at the Val Air Ballroom is a classic example.
I meet all sorts of people and even when they're not helpful for what I want, they are helpful because I remember them and put them into chapters.
Let's discuss those next week.