Sometimes I think that half of my experiences and memories were originally rationalized as “research.” And I’m probably right in thinking that. Like the time in Belize when I made myself climb up those thin stone steps to the top of an Altun Ha structure because I convinced myself I might want to use it in a story someday. (I'm the one off to the side with the ambiguous hands-on-hips pose.)
Or when I had my friend Jeff over to my house because, being a lead, he could help me figure out if it is possible to swing dance to Bohemian Rhapsody and I want to use that in my current novel. (We didn’t come to a conclusion, because we got distracted with awesome swing songs like Jump, Jive, and Wail instead.)
(This picture is not Jeff and I. He wasn't wearing a suit, for starters.)
The “research” that’s had the most impact on me so far, however, is my decision to try Taekwondo.
I’ve mentioned that my novel, Rain, is about spies, right? (If I haven’t, then I’m telling you now.) In eighth grade, when I was about halfway through the first draft, my new friend Katie suggested I try Taekwondo at the school where she was currently a purple belt. (She’s now a black belt. Also, for anyone who’s read Rain, yeah, Katie = Caidy, except for she’s actually a lot nicer in real life. Usually.) I considered it for two reasons. One was that my “break” from my nine years of ice skating was reaching its anniversary and I needed to start looking for a new way to channel energy, and the other reason was that I was writing about a spy.
I already had my main character Mel’s attitude down. I knew her personality in and out. But what I did not know was almost anything about hand-to-hand combat. I figured going into the story that I could just Google some stuff, look at anatomy pictures, and ask my grandpa, who’s a black belt in Kung Fu, a few questions and I’d be set. But writing it? I’d tried a few action scenes, and I had more planned, and so far they didn’t feel real. And I knew that was because I hadn’t really felt it
So I took a trial class. And loved it. And signed up for more. And more. And still love it, two years later. Like, really love it. You should try Taekwondo, even if you aren’t writing an action thriller. I mean, there might come a time when your character needs to kick some butt. And you should be ready.