Jan 24 2011

Bluebird’s View

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I continue to be amazed by the wonders right in my back yard – or front yard, as it would be, in this case. Of course, you assume I’m talking about the majestic volcanic mountain ranges and creosote-studded rolling hills that surround the place I call home. Yes. And no. I’m also talking about something else. Something with a pulse.

Last weekend, I had the chance to take another quad trip into the Galiuro Mountains with hubby, guided by some of the most authentic, down-to-Earth, good people you’ll ever meet (many of whom we met for the first time, actually). Yes, it’s their pulse that has me so energized.

The corrugated metal roof, stooped frame and rotting wood of this shack near Bluebird Mine (closed in 1920) whispers of the past, the wild west. And on this particular night, the sounds of laughter bounced off the weather-worn building and other nearby adobe structures. Click to enlarge. Scroll below for more photos.

This is the reason I’ve always been so drawn to small-town living. Authenticity. These are real people. With real jobs. With real problems. With real heart. With real goodness.

If you were to peel away their outer layers, you’d find exactly the same thing on the inside: Kindness. Goodness. Authenticity. And a willingness to literally share the shirt off their backs (hubby and I were ill-prepared, not realizing we would be in the mountains into the cooold night, so we both returned, adorned with the gifts of once-strangers: gloves, jackets, bandanas … um, and beer … Dearest husband ran out of that, too. I was the designated water guzzler.)

It all started at the unofficial watering hole: the local lumber store off of Main Street. The ATVs lined up along the sharply banked, pot-hole pitted road. The motors purred and the street was illuminated from the sun glinting off of the yellows, blues, reds, and greens of quad fenders. That’s where it all began.

But where it ended … it ended under a bright three-quarter moon about 14 miles away, eight hours later, at the Bluebird Mine nestled into the mountains and perched over our tough old, once-mining town itself … perched above the lumberyard, too – like a bluebird keeping watch.

The slender stalks of these Century Plants reflect the setting sun at Bluebird Mine. Our little town begins its slumber below. Click to enlarge.

For Writers: I’m a firm believer that research breeds authenticity in writing. Yes, even fiction writing. What’s more, the more creative you are with your research, the more creative and authentic your story will be.

Sure, you can consult the standard reference books, academic studies, and newspaper/magazine articles; you should, probably. But consider these creative research options:

  • Field trips to study setting
  • Interviews with local residents to understand customs
  • Hands-on apprenticeships to learn the trade of your characters
  • Short “pass-fail” community college classes about topics helpful to your story
  • Interviews and visits with practitioners to understand psychological and physical impairments that might plague your characters
  • Museum and historical society visits
  • Online support groups for people suffering various afflictions/situations (tapping into the real emotions of real people who might be living some aspects of the story you’re trying to tell)
  • Social media (why not take advantage of the expertise offered by those you’ve met online through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn)

This type of research is what’s going to make your novel authentic: your ability to step into the shoes of your characters, breathe their breaths, think their thoughts, react the way they would in particular situations. And the only way to do that is by doing your homework. Do the research, because your readers will be able to smell a fake.

When you begin a new work-in-progress, how do you go about finding your authentic voice? Authentic characters? Authentic setting?

4 Responses to “Bluebird’s View”

  • Hallie Sawyer Says:

    Great ideas for research! i have to admit. I have skimped in this area. I think just getting the bones of my story down was my main goal. However, now that I know where I want things to go, you have given me some great ideas to help give my story some life.

    Good stuff, as always!

  • Jamie Says:

    Thanks for the great research ideas. I noticed that Wikipedia wasn’t on your list. 😉 I’ve found that I need to find to give myself permission to spend time researching. I always seem to feel like I’m wasting time if I’m not writing, which is a ridiculous notion. In fact, your post helped me understand that research is not only an integral part of writing, it’s an activity that can and should be embraced, not trudged through! I think I need to take some field trips. 🙂

  • Melissa Says:

    Heh…. Wikipedia :-). The other great thing about research is that scenes, plot, and even character, begin to grow from the research; you’ll discover plot points that you never imagined. Have fun with it!

  • Suzie Ivy Says:

    Beautiful pictures and you are 100% correct about research. Now if I can talk my husband into a trip to Australia for research I’ll be in heaven.