What would you do to get a good story? Track a tornado? Visit avolcano? Watch wolves copulate? Sometimes doing research means getting out of the library and into real life. It means trading in the computer for a pair of snowshoes, or maybe some hip waders, and joining scientists in the field.
I’m working on a project right now that involves wolf breeding research. In order to better understand it, I volunteered to become a member of the team of observers. Yes – that meant I had to go to wolf mating training - complete with diagrams and slides. I won’t share them here – this is a G rated site. But now that I am a trained observer, I get to spend the next few weeks hunkered down in a deer blind watching wolves poop, urinate, and hopefully copulate. Some people think I’m crazy, but I consider it a part of the radical research I am willing to do to write a great nonfiction book.
Hands-on experience helps authors understand the complexity of a subject and in turn relate it to their audience. Some of the best nonfiction authors go to great lengths to learn about their topic firsthand. Author Mary Kay Carson is often in the field with scientists and just spent last spring out chasing tornadoes. Patricia Newman’s award-winning book Sea Otter Heroes had her out on the water visiting the critters themselves. And just ask author Peggy Thomas about the time she gave an elephant a rectal examination. It’s all in the name of nonfiction writing and all for the desire to write the best and most accurate story possible.
So what nonfiction story are you working on right now and what lengths are you willing to go to gain in-depth knowledge about your topic?
Me – I’ll be the author wearing hand and foot warmers silently recording the deeply personal behaviors of mating wolves.
I can’t wait!
We are ten authors who support readers and writers through our writing, author visits, and workshops.
The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.
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