FIELD TRIPS FOR WRITERS by Jackie Houchin
My good friend--well we haven't actually met, at least I don't think so--Jackie Houchin has decided to share her "Field Trips for Writers". Jackie is a book reviewer and retired journalist. She is also a member of the Writers in Residence critique group and blog. We've been friends on Facebook and exchanged emails and I've been a guest on the blog and I certainly consider her a real friend.
This is what she had to share with us:
"WinR" authors take research seriously. We read voraciously. We consult experts. And we occasionally get hands-on experience by going on "field trips."
One time five of us met at a nearby indoor shooting range for basic instruction in handgun use and safety. Our instructor took us to a small classroom where several open-chamber revolvers and semi-automatics lay on a table. During the two-hour class we covered safety rules and procedures, and were personally introduced to each of the weapons on the table. After handling them (loading, breaking down, etc.) we were issued safety glasses, hearing protectors, a firearm and a bag of bullets (all included in the price of the class).
We assembled in stalls inside the shooting range, and followed instructions to load, aim, and fire. BAM! Hands jerked, hearts leapt, and even with headphones, our ears rung.
After those virgin shots, using both revolvers and automatic pistols, we quickly burned through all the bullets and several targets. The flame-bursts from the muzzle and the hot, sometimes gritty blowback on our faces were hard to get used to. The idea that we held death in our hands was even harder.
Were we now prepared to defend our lives and loved ones? Probably not, but we sure could write more realistic crime fiction!
Another field trip took us to the infamous GreystoneManor in Beverly Hills for a reenactment of the political scandal and alleged murder-suicide that plagued the family for years. We began in the living room of the enormous mansion to meet the characters and hear the plot line. Then we were taken into various rooms for live action scenes. I was sitting at the foot of a magnificent staircase when gunshots rang out and a bloody body tumbled down to land inches from my feet (closest I've ever been to a real "live" corpse)!
Another field trip took the "WinRs" to TheRoseTreeCottage in Pasadena for English Tea to celebrate the completion of our own ex-pat British member's historical novel. While we ate dainty morsels and sipped creamy tea we learned new English terms, how to make clotted cream and the fun of a Wellington Toss.
A field trip that your group might find fascinating in the Los Angeles area is the HollywoodForeverCemetery next to Paramount studio. You can find gravestones with epitaphs for many celebs, including Rudolph Valentino, Tyrone Power, and Jayne Mansfield.
Another is the Angels Flight narrow gauge funicular in Bunker Hill, downtown LA, where author Michael Connelly set a Harry Bosch mystery of the same name. You can ride either of the two cars (Sinai or Olivet) for a mere 50 cents.
Research "haunted" homes in your area (great for mystery or paranormal writers). Experience a Native American casino (James Bond pastiche, anyone?), a Presidential Library (political thriller?), the Getty Museum or Villa (historical or puzzle mystery?) or the Winchester Mystery House.
Take a tour of a crime lab or a newspaper or other businesses that strike your fancy. Ride a subway, Metrolink, or Amtrak train ("The Girl on the Train," "What She Saw," "Murder on the Orient Express"). Colleges offer many excursions that would be great for research, such as an ethnic food tour in Los Angeles, a visit to a TV studio, or to the Space Shuttle.
Please share any ideas for field trips in your area or places that have inspired you to write.
And visit the gals of our eclectic group at writersinresidence.blogspot.com/
And there they all are. I've actually met two of them in person--and yes, I count them as friends.