Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Oh, the places you will see!

By Rick Blechta

Being pretty well house-bound by government decree here in Ontario, my mind slipped sideways the other day, thinking of all the places to which I’ve travelled for research purposes since I began writing novels.

These places include various places in the UK, Vienna, Paris and the northwest of France, and Italy, where we were forced to visit Rome, Florence, Tuscany, and Venice.

When I first began writing, I never considered the need for “on location” research. It really is indispensable if you want verismo in your story.

Never having travelled much, I didn’t understand how incredibly joyous is can be. You will meet wonderful people, have unexpected adventures and learn arcane things that will add wonderful layers of information to your plot — if used judiciously.

Another truth I soon discovered came at tax time. These research trips could be written off as long as I could prove to the Canada Revenue Agency that I was legitimately working on a novel.

Since many of the jaunts were to countries where English wasn’t spoken, it was indispensable to have a translator to do the job properly. Fortunately my darling wife is a polyglot. She speaks French, German, and learned to speak Italian well enough for our trip to Italy that she was able to haggle in Italian with a gondolier in Venice one night.

I could always count on her to gain access to a number of places I wouldn’t have been able to manage, using her language skills leavened with a dash of charm.

Best of all, as long as I paid her something — we settled on $25 a day, plus room, board, and travel expenses — she was technically my employee so her costs could also be written off.

The real payoff, however, was all the little details I unearthed, things I never would have thought of had I not visited those locations, and it’s those details, casually tossed into my writing, that help readers feel as if they’re actually “present” in the story they’re reading. I’ve had those comments a lot for which I’m really grateful.

I miss those days (as does my wife!) and I will have to make a trip to Washington, DC if I’m to finish the novel on which I’m working, and I’m sure some wonderful unexpected tidbits will come out of my research trip to that great city.

I can’t wait!

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