Write what you know, but don’t be afraid to know more.

Research, research, research is just as important as location, location, location.

When you grow up as sheltered as I did in a place where almost nothing of consequence ever happens, you do a lot of research. You have to. If I did no research, I’d have to write a non-fiction book called, “How to survive growing up in Northwest Wisconsin and staying  mostly sane.” It would be 50 pages long. Who’s going to bother reading that?

Murders like the kind I write about rarely happen here. We get one gruesome killing maybe every five years or so. So, just the murders alone take exhaustive research. Toxins in plants don’t make themselves apparent with casual internet searches. You have to dig for them in scientific blogs and research papers chock full of Latin. I sometimes wonder if the federal government really “Big Brothers” our internet. They’d probably be dismayed at some of my search terms, like “burning a body in a metal barrel.”

I get dismayed at the sheer brutality our so-called “humane” race is capable of: domestic violence, the war on drugs, human trafficking, rape, exploitation, genocide. Just focusing on those subjects in and of themselves is enough to make me want to hide under a very thick comforter and stream nothing but Sesame Street re-runs. The trick to doing the research is to glean the kernels of good out of the overwhelming bad.

And, believe it or not, there are pockets of hope, redemption, survival, and sometimes justice amidst all the pain. We are a resilient if duplicitous race of beings. There is always that search for love, for peace, for liberation from the yolks of bitterness and regret that all of us are guilty of carrying around for too long. As a writer I use the research to put my various characters into the positions they need to play to find their end game, whether it be a good outcome or an unfortunate one.

In essence their fictitious journey is simply a reflection of our real one. In my opinion, that’s what good dramatic writing should really be about.


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