Saturday, March 14, 2015

Out of the Comfort Zone--Again!

     I nearly forgot to do a March post as I have shipped out of my comfort zone again and am researching and writing a contemporary romance taking place in Maine. I'm good about doing my Romancing the Jock blog since they send me a reminder every month to get something on the site, but my personal blog sometimes slips my mind if I am deeply engrossed in a new topic.
     The last time I left Louisiana mentally and set off for foreign parts, I wrote Paradise for a Sinner which took me to the other side of the world and into a culture I knew nothing about. My research folder for that book is among my fattest. At least, I've been to Maine, eaten plenty of fresh lobster, and met the locals most of whom do not have a Down East accent for which I am very grateful when writing dialog. No need to find out what Samoan men wear under their lava-lavas. I can assume lobster fishermen go with boxers or briefs or boxer-briefs--but what do they wear aboard their boats?  After watching an hour of Hulu posts, I conclude chest high waders in various colors and rubber boots. Other than that, whatever floats their boat.
     American courtship rituals should be similar, only maybe a lobster dinner isn't as impressive as in Louisiana where we only have crawfish and our lobsters are flown in from Maine to reside in tanks in high-priced restaurants.  But every area has its own colloquialisms.  In Maine, lobster isn't merely good, it's wicked good. I second that as it is one of my favorite foods which I eat only once or twice a year in Louisiana, but dined on every day in one form or another while visiting New England.
     New writers are often urged to write what they know.  Not bad advice for the beginner.  But after a while, all authors want to strike out in new directions. At the moment, I think I could write about Louisiana in my sleep, but not so Maine. While all Americans have certain similarities, it is the details of speech, food and drink, the history of the area, and how people earn their living that will bring a story alive. One caveat, however.  Do not clog your story with dumps of cool stuff you learned and can't wait to share. If it cannot be worked into a scene that reads naturally, don't include the info. I know. I just hate not being able to use it all--but don't.  I so desired to share the factoid that more Confederate soldiers survived amputations because the maggots in their wounds ate out the infection than the better cared for Yankees, but couldn't find a place for it. Hey, I just did--this blog. Nothing is ever wasted. You know, Maine had one of the highest enlistment rates in the Civil War. I think I can work that into A Place Apart, my new title that I hope to finish by September if I don't get totally distracted by my research (another pitfall to avoid). At some point, you must write the story. I'm already 10,000 words in so things are looking good.
     Bringing you up to date on other Lynn Shurr books, Son of a Sinner was released yesterday in e-format and soft cover. Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball is due out in reprint on April 3rd after being out of print for over a year. Have to go now. I need to do just a bit more research on Portuguese Water Dogs.


  1. I agree that writing what you know about is what newbies need to do.It;s experience and maturity in self-knowledge, (and writing), that teaches you what level of 'reach' you can do SUCCESSFULLY. We wouldn't have sci-fi or most dramas without good writer's imaginations, but it is the lack of simple research that drives me crazy when I read.
    I also agree about knowing what to leave own attempt into writing a romance has been criticized for not expounding enough on the local foods my characters are eating, since I am a well-known, ex-professional, foodie. I added enough to I think make it interesting to the locale and the travelers' experience, but it isn't a travelogue or a cookbook. In fact, I may even remove more of it in the final edits.
    Speaking of food, you had made me quite hungry talking about your lobster dinners...but rather killed my appetite talking about the ...gag...maggots!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Tonette. Fortunately, I am not known for my cooking and will never get that particular criticism. I do fear getting local color wrong though. And too much, especially if it gets traveloguey, can ruin a work of fiction. I adore lobster but none of it tastes as good as it did in Maine.