Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Clamming Research: Part One
Any fiction writer will tell you that research is necessary, fun, and time consuming. We want to get the details right. What does a body look like after it's been dead for two days in the winter? How many gadgets does a police officer wear on her duty belt? Will someone poisoned by datura tea be able to dial a telephone for help?
Sounds a bit gruesome to the non-crime writer, but you can bet that readers nail authors if they get details wrong.
I've been working on a scene that involves digging for clams in a town similar to Ipswich, Massachusetts where I live.
I know clam digging goes on at low tide. I know people use clam forks. That one has to obtain a $30 recreational clamming license from the town. That many people are very fond of local fried clams.
So I proceeded to write two scenes where Lauren goes clamming, and at the end of the second one finds a near-murder situation that involves a clamming fork.
But I've never been clamming! I've only even driven by the flats once, although they're only a mile away. So here's the plan: later today I'm walking over to Town Hall with proof of residency and $30 to get my license. Then I'm calling my friend Elizabeth who claims to own a clam fork and said she's never been either, despite being the new Chair of the town's Shellfish Advisory Board. And we're going to head down just after dawn Friday (low tide is at 6:34 AM) to the spit between the mainland and Great Neck where the public clam flats are.
I'll post pictures and a report of what I learned and what I got wrong in my 100% fictional scenes in a few days. Maybe I should get a book on clamming out of the library first? And maybe we'll be having steamed clams for lunch Friday.
What's been your favorite research for a book? What have you caught an author out on?