Digging for the right story details can be like mining for bits of gold or the most sparkly gems. Don’t you think? Sometimes finding the right story details requires research. Did I hear you groan? Yes, research makes a lot of people grunt and roll their eyes. Some would rather have a tooth pulled than do even two minutes of research. But digging for details can be fun. Really.
The research that I did to find the right story details for Buck Fever is exactly what I talked about today when I visited the wonderful classes of seventh and eighth graders at a school in New Jersey.
The students and I talked about how road trips can be considered research. I shared how I drove out to Bucks County, Pennsylvania to find the perfect setting for my novel. When I found places that I could use in my novel, I took pictures and scribbled notes about the spots.
The students and I also talked about how writing about an experience is easier if the writer has actually done what he or she is writing about. For example, in order to write about Joey loading a gun, in Buck Fever, I learned how to load the same type of gun. I even went to a firing range to shoot a rifle. And, by the way, I actually hit the targets. I hope that you are impressed.
The students and I also talked about interviewing as a type of research and how interviewing is sort of like begging, borrowing, and stealing from the experiences of others. I pointed out that although I have never hip-checked or high-sticked anyone on an ice hockey rink, I was able to write about ice hockey in Buck Fever because I interviewed a hockey player and read about the sport.
By the time I left this wonderful school and my new seventh and eighth grade friends, I think we all had either a new or a renewed sense of how important details are when writing a story. In addition, I think we understood how finding the right details often means lots of mining, but also how interesting and fun research can be. I call this a successful day.