It’s all about the details: Thoughts on background research

It’s all about the details: Thoughts on background research

As a lawyer, I spend hours each day researching legal issues. Although the research covers different areas of the law (bankruptcy, commercial practice (contracts, UCC etc.), real estate etc.), it’s all basically in the same space. In contrast, the research that I have to do as thriller writer is all over the lot. For example, this morning I was researching high-end women’s and men’s clothing styles for two characters. I know very little about the first, and only moderately more about the second. However, since I have to outfit two particularly wealthy characters, I need some understanding of the specifics (sorry, I don’t watch the fashion-themed reality shows). Other research issues that have arisen during the writing process include the altitude ceiling of a particular helicopter, the flying range of private jets, the weapons used by a particular unit within a foreign army, and a host of geographical issues (e.g. finding an airport in a particular area of Mexico that has a runway long enough to land a Hercules C140). At the very end of the process, I double check the more exotic facts with the experts (fashionistas for clothes, weapons experts for the firearms, etc.) to make sure I hit the mark. Although I suspect that it would be more efficient to put in that kind of detail in the second (fifth, … twentieth) run through of the manuscript, I have trouble doing that. I will have to check with other writers to see how they navigate their way through the process.

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