I’m not exactly sure which was weirder, the actual research for this fact or the result of researching the fact the way I did. You decide.
I was writing a mystery novella back when the internet wasn’t so prolific. I’m still not sure if the workload was a bit easier for the writer without all the social media work necessary today to stay alive in the public arena. But this was back when most of the research of writers started in the library and then moved on to interviewing experts to share firsthand knowledge.
In writing a story, as you all know, the facts have to be genuine. This is true whether you are writing contemporary stories or building a fantasy world. I opened every conversation with the librarians with I was writing fiction.
The problem? I don’t think anyone believed me. I even offered to show them the manuscript in progress. No one took me up on that offer.
Okay, so I’m not Mary Higgins Clark. No, I’m not J.K. Rowling either.
Nope! I’m just plain ol’ Victoria Marie Lees.
Guess what? No one cared. All they cared about was that I had a question about the use of a hand gun.
Just a basic question. After all, I’ve never used a hand gun before.
So I couldn’t really find any information at the library. And I was running out of time. This novella was my final assignment for a course at the University of Pennsylvania, a writing seminar in fiction entitled “From Murder Most Foul to the Explicit Corpse.” I only had a week to complete it. And with all the workload for two courses, working outside the home, helping my five children with their own school work, not to mention trying to get ready for Christmas, I didn’t have much time for research.
So I called my town police station. Well, who else do you know uses hand guns regularly?
All I needed to know was which type of handgun expelled bullet shells. I needed them, I told the police officer, at my fictional crime site. They were key to discovering who the murderer was in my mystery.
There was silence on the phone.
“Officer?” I asked.
“Sir, this really is a fictional story about a murder that happens onstage during a performance. … Hello? Are you still there?”
After a few minutes, I heard muffled voices on the other side of the line.
“Guys, I can bring the manuscript in to show you if you want.”
Finally, the officer answered my question. But later that day, a town police cruiser drove past my home. Slowly. Peering into my living room windows. I guess they wanted to see where I hid the body.
In fact, the police drove by my home every day for several weeks.
However, after noticing all the foot traffic at my house what with five children playing outside, running in and out of the house, friends and people popping by, the police figured I must be a crazy writer and not a murderer. For how could I ever find time to murder anyone let alone hide a dead body? And then keep the body hidden from all the occupants and visitors at the house.
I can’t wait to read your stories. Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and offering a comment. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. It’s greatly appreciated.