Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Far?

Let's talk research. Unless you have attempted to write a novel I doubt you realize how much research goes into creating fiction, lives, settings, and plots. I never did.

With a handful completed novels under my belt I'm now fully aware of all the little details that it takes to make a story come alive. And as I take a short break from novel writing -- to concentrate on querying for my lasted completed work, to wrap up a few short stories, and to decide which idea I want to commit a year's worth of time to next, I find myself pondering the various research that will be required to properly execute each book.

The question is how far am I willing to go in the name of research for my next book.

I have an idea. A solid vision for the primary character to fit that idea. The problem?

Said character will break a law and to properly write that character's problems I really think I would need to put myself in his shoes and break the same law.

Wipe that frown from your face. I'm not pondering murder, armed robbery, or any other violent crime. I'm not even talking about snorting cocaine, or starting a crystal-meth lab in my well house. The kind of crime I'm talking about would only put myself in jeopardy and even then the rick of harm is rather low, especially if I coerced one of my buddies into being an accomplice. There would be no loss of property or harm. Truly a victimless crime.

Think trespassing, but for a thrill. I could tell you more but then you'd all be accomplices as well.

Actually, this particular feat is one I've always wanted to do and I know at least one of my friends has as well, but it does come with a slight risk of bodily harm and a greater risk of criminal trespass charges.

Would the courts be more lenient if I got caught and told them it was in the name of book research? Or am I making a convenient excuse? Is this particular plot as good as I think or am I trying to find a reason to take a risk I've always daydreamed about?

And no I haven't decided to make the leap and go for it, I'm just saying it has crossed my mind this week. Given that thought, I got to wondering ...

How far would you be willing to go in the name of research?


ChrisEldin said...

Holy F***! Don't do that Travis!
Don't you have a federal job? Wouldn't you be putting your job in jeopardy. And if you wanted to leave your job, wouldn't you have to disclose this.
Go interview a couple of police officers. Watch CSI or Law and Order.
Hell, go visit a criminal already in jail and give him a few smokes in exchange.
Got that?

Angie Ledbetter said...

I'd be willing to do a lot of grunt work and research on line or in person...but a crime? Nuh-unh. And one that risks prosecution AND possible bodily harm?? *bok bok*

Robin said...

Hmmm, possible criminal trespass? Perchance, bodily harm? Intriguing...Amarillo...hmmm. Either painting your wifes name on the water tower or bungee jumping off of a grain elevator!

I dunno Travis...I just might do it if I felt in was in my novel's best interest.

And this might take away the "high" of trespass..but is their any way you could get so called "permission" in the name of research? If it is victimless, it's possible.

But stay the hell away from Pantex!

writtenwyrdd said...

I figure if you plan on base jumping you won't mind that sort of research! (That's what it sounds like, anyhow.)

Me, I am not going to go breaking laws and lose my clearance and job by getting caught. I figure I can just suffer and do my best to read up on or talk to people about whatever issue I have. I am pretty good and figuring out how people think and where they are coming from, so I hope I can manage without going to great extremes.

What I seek to do is get the environment right. I travel and take copious notes, photos and get touristy/local type info to take home.

Mystery Robin said...

Not that far! LOL! It's kind of the method actor approach to novel writing. I'd probably do research online about people who had broken the law and leave it at that. :)

But then - I write murder mysteries, so I have to take a different approach...

Joshua said...

i saw as long as you dont get caught, its gonna be a great book. Of course, prison sucks. I think you need to do a novel on strippers, thats research

preTzel said...

Gee Travis. I dunno. It depends. I don't believe there is any such thing as a "victimless" crime. If you trespass you are going on property someone else owns and that makes them a victim of your trespassing thus making it a non - victimless crime.

I would not go so far as to break the law but I might see if could interview a few criminals in the city/county jail who might have done something I need as research for my next book. :D

Barbara Martin said...

Overall Travis, this is not a good idea. Better to speak to the local police about your research project. If I can do criminal investigation research from my computer or throw questions over to my cop buddies, so can you.

Besides, every so often a government agency comes sniffing at a blogger site just to see what's been written...and here you have literally stated a possible pre-crime. Not very smart. Although you could, in your defense, say it was all part of your research.

I agree with Chris Eldin, go to a prison, speak to the warden about your research and go from there. But do not commit a crime just to find out how it felt! Loeb and Leopold did that, and just look what happened to them!!!

Stephen Parrish said...

I've never felt the need to commit a crime, but I do feel the need to visit every location I use for a scene. So I've spent the night in a cemetery, stomped around central Turkey, and even pushed my way into a rioting mob in Berlin. I've long wanted to spend a year as a street person, but that would mean abandoning my daughter.

Risks? Yes, aplenty. Jail? No, yuck. They do things to people in jail that I don't want done to me.

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess it all depends on whether I thought I could get away with it. I certainly wouldn't want to spend any time in Jail in the New Orleans area. That would just be gross.

the walking man said...

Try to stay to the misdemeanor category, but in understanding the judicial process it certainly helps to wind your way through it in the first person.

Georgie B said...

Doing what you're suggesting would be going just a tad too far in my book.

Research is all well and good, and more power to you for doing it, but as the first commenter suggested, talk to a few police officers about it or even visit someone in the county jail for their take on it.

For God's sake, don't do this yourself.

No matter what level of government you're in, unless you got friends in high places that can do things for you, you will become royally F'd.

R2K said...

: )

Travis' wife says said...

Travis' wife says:

Knowing what he is talking about doing cracks me up with what everyone has come up with what you would do. You cannot bungy jump off Grain elevators unless you want to bang your body up against a concrete building.

If you already have a book published and word gets out you went to jail in the name of research for the next book...Get on it big boy. I am with Charles though not in a nasty might catch something and bring it home.

inherwritemind1 said...

I don't know how far I would go -- but I'll say that my own novel research (mostly online) has taken me to many strange places. Fortunately, the library is not one of them since the information is only a few keystrokes away.

Don't do anything dangerous.

Josephine Damian said...

"Would the courts be more lenient if I got caught and told them it was in the name of book research?"

I can name several actors and writers who tried that excuse. Judge said: Fuck that! (well those weren't the exact words, but you get the point).

Lots of criminals (with immunity deals) are testifying in the OJ trial. Quite a bunch of novel-worthy characters. Quite a few have written books.

Lots of true crime books out there written by the criminals themselves.

Seems BEING a criminal just might land you a book deal (plus some jail time).

For laughs, giggles and research I took a class in forensic psychology. Realized a degree would give me street cred w/an agent, plus I'd learn enough to be confident to write about it (or delude myself into thinking so).

Then there was my stint as the medical examiner's office. Plenty of grist for the mill and plenty of exposure to deadly bio-hazard. Hands-on research does have its risks, bro.

Nearly 20K in tuition, and 2 1/2 years later, I'm about to graduate. Figured if the writing don't pan out, being a real-life sleuth will.

Who knows? I may enjoy being a sleuth more than a writer. Ironic that it all started w/research.

Design Goddess said...

I don't think I could go so far as to possibly break the law and/or put myself at risk for injury or worse. Is there a way you can talk to people who've committed said crime and do your "research" that way? Actors and actresses do that for roles all the time versus doing the actual feat they are to do or have done as the character. Just a thought.

With all that being said though, I guess it would depend on the actual crime. I mean, you could be talking about something as small as jaywalking for all we know and I'd certainly do something like that for research.

Good luck with whatever you decide. But just keep one thing in mind: "Will someone be willing and able to bail me out if I get arrested?"

Crystal Phares said...

Travis, I am working with a couple of our Amarillo police officers right now on my book and I'm sure they would be more than happy to help you out.

Keep in mind... Jail is BAD! Prison is WORSE!

Let me know if you want to talk to them and I will give you all their contact information and let them know you will be getting in touch!

Try to stay out of trouble. Your wife would probably appreciate it!

angus said...

I think the courts will buy it for sure.

"Gee whilickers, Mr. Erwin, we just didn't know you was doing research. Tell you what, we'll cut the sentence from ten years in the state pen to nine years and 364 days. See, we care."

But if you do get locked up, I'll write. Good luck

alex keto said...

That Angus before me. My son was logged on the computer.

alex keto said...

I know what it is you're thinking of. You're going to steal a nuclear warhead from the Pantex plant, right?

Good idea. Should be a piece of cake

Robyn said...

Hey there Travis! I have added to my blog for your Your Town Monday! Go take a peek, pretty cool trip!
What's been going on...did someone say you committed a crime...were you caught?! I guess you will be!

Aaron said...

I've already broken plenty enough laws to write a book. Maybe that's my calling? ;)

Melissa Marsh said...

With the plethora of information available on the internet today, I think you could probably find someone that has committed this crime and get their take on it. Better than risking life or limb, right?

Mary said...

Just don't get caught. ;)

Lana Gramlich said...

Protect your livelihood, man...too many people are ending up jobless & homeless these days. Screw research (for the time being, at least.) Can you possibly speak w/someone else who has the experience about it?

Monnik said...

c'mon, guys... think of all of the novel worthy characters Travis would meet in jail. And later on in prison if he were to be convicted? That's valuable book fodder!

jerseygirl89 said...

I think you should tell us all what it is. Maybe someone (in their long ago and misspent youth, of course) broke the same law and could tell you about it without the risk.

Of course, I may be saying that just because I want to know what it is.