Never Mind “Write What You Know”

The write-what-you-know maxim never appealed to me. I’m a student at heart. I like research.

So, when an Irish friend blew through town a few weeks back, I eagerly prepared myself to take full advantage of his good nature. My list of questions wasn’t exhaustive, just a few odds and ends from the first draft. (In-depth research will require a trip.) For example, do four-year-olds go to nursery school, pre-school, any school at all? Answer: Yes, and it’s called “junior infants.”

Trousers or pants? Well, since “pants” equals underwear, best beware. However, I can use the following phrase in dialogue: “complete pants,” which means “rubbish.” Over pints, I asked my friend about hot plates for camping and graffiti among other things. Poor guy, at one point I even pulled out my novel journal to quote his Irish-ness verbatim.

I’ll be the first to admit that research complicates the process. Why can’t I set a story in good old Portland, Oregon? At least then I wouldn’t have to contend with the lousy exchange rate…

Here’s an example of an actual research list, most of which relates to things Irish.

Fourth Draft Research (May ’06 Trip)

  • In small jurisdictions, are there detective guards plus regular (uniformed) guards? What’s the internal lingo for differentiating them? (page 6)
  • For civilians: do they say “guard” or “officer” or “police” etc? (page 6)(page 160)(page 175/6)(page 181)(page 297)
  • When CA seat belt law into effect? (page 32)
  • Called “Jane Does” in Ireland? (page 35)(page iii-11)
  • Check smoking laws vs. date of story (page 36)(page 95)
  • Women’s shelters in Ennis? (page 42)
  • Moonstone significance research (page 70)
  • Is “bedsit” really a word? (page 158)
  • Can drink outside? Festival, booths, etc? (page 183)
  • DPP – prosecutor. What called in civilian terms? (page 184)
  • What time pubs close generally? (page 256)
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms (page 267)
  • Can you borrow against a house in Ireland? (page 267)
  • What do nurses wear? (page 270)
  • How phone calls handled on general wards? (page 311)
  • Public defenders used like in US? (page 324)
  • Visitors allowed into interview rooms when arrested? (page 324)
  • Call for lawyers when get arrested? (page 325)
  • State Pathologist has a van? (page 377)
  • False arrest—conditions of arrest; conditions to let go; how long can hold etc. Allowed visitors? (page 390)
  • Get a public defender automatically like in the States? (page 392)
  • Does peat go gray and powdery like coals? (page iii-23)
  • Check robins and wheatears in September. (page iii-70)


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