Monday, March 12, 2007

When Research Becomes Reality

I went to a women’s camp this past weekend to learn and practice some of the skills my fictional characters have. I thought it would be a great way to make my writing more realistic, or to at least confirm that I hadn’t written anything ridiculous. What I found instead was that my research had imparted a lot of knowledge and confidence in some of these areas. I noticed this particularly in the horsemanship class.

I’ve been around horses before, but always felt a little intimidated by how big they are, and by the fact that they can really do serious damage under certain circumstances. But this time I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing. Four months of daily writing from the viewpoint of an expert horsewoman must’ve rubbed off on me because the day before my class I went down to the barn with someone from my archery class and felt like the horses and burros were old friends.

When it came time to groom and saddle my own horse Sunday morning, it felt like a very normal thing to do, and when we rode, the instructor complimented my form. All the other times I’ve been on a horse, I’ve been a little afraid. It’s pretty high up there, and falling off is serious business. But this time it felt different. I very much respected the horse and terrain, but I was in charge of the situation, which is something I had never felt on other times when I’ve ridden. I trotted my horse, moved her on and off the trail, took her ahead of horses she didn’t like, made her drop back, and did all kinds of things. At one point we got onto a smoother trail and she tried to canter. I was game, but we had been told not to let the horses do that, so I reined her in. Afterwards, I unsaddled her and rubbed her down like I’d been doing it for years.

Who would’ve thought that several years of writing about characters that spend their whole lives around animals and four months of daily fiction blogging about a horsewoman would’ve imparted that much knowledge and confidence?

Sure, there’s no substitute for experience, but if you read and write about something enough, you might find you can walk into a situation that feels familiar, even if it’s slightly foreign.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Way cool.

I wish Mitchell's love for water would rub off on me, though.

bunnygirl said...

Hey, yeah! I'll write a story about a swimmer who just luuuuvs the water! And maybe I'll be inspired to hit the pool often enough to get back into triathlon.

Hm... now if only I could get excited enough about swimmers to write about one. Anyone who likes getting wet seems a bit off to me. ;-)

Alice Audrey said...

The last time I was on a horse was in Cabo San Lucus for a little half-day ride to the beach. I did the same things with my horse, who apparently had a vendetta going with a couple of others.