By Kimberley Woodhouse
I’m always fascinated with research. It’s one of my favorite things to do in my career. I find it so easy to get sucked in by an interesting time in history, an amazing person, or an absolutely breathtaking location. But if I had to give one piece of advice about research it would be this: Go visit the location in person (if at all possible). Do some ‘hands-on’ research because it’s invaluable.
For example – at least nine of my fiction books take place in Alaska. We used to live there, but I still travel back to do research on specific locations for different stories. Why? Well, for starters, Alaska is my favorite place and it was great to have an excuse to go back. Then there’s also the fact that Alaska is one of those settings that authors get wrong. A lot.
So when I was in Texas on a book tour a few years ago, I decided to stop by the Texas Rangers Museum in Waco, Texas again. I knew that I wanted to do a story or two including the Rangers, and what better way to learn about them than to go to the historical source.
Not only did the museum sell a lot of research books to me that day, but I learned so many interesting facts getting to touch and feel and look at all the amazing paraphernalia they’ve acquired. Several stories started simmering in my story-creating mind.
But there were several things that made me ask the question, “How did they do that?”
One particular one was a Colt revolver that a Ranger would have used. They had it set up in a case where you could stick your hand in and pick it up.
Let me tell you, that wasn’t an easy task. I will never forget it. The gun itself was big for my hand, but it was the weight of it that astounded me. I kept thinking, “How could someone shoot this with one hand?”
Now, to put this into perspective, I always thought that I had strong hands. They might be small, but I’ve got the strength of a being a classically trained pianist since I was just a little tyke. When other people can’t open their pickle jars, I normally can.
Talk about harsh reality. That gun was heavy. And I decided right then and there that there wasn’t any way I could hold up that pistol, aim it, and fire it with any accuracy using only one hand. It was an incredible thing to think about because those Rangers had to be able to do it. And do it well.
Of course, then it put my mind into motion about how difficult it would have been for a woman to fire that behemoth of a pistol. And then my brain conjured up a headstrong woman that was passionate about temperance and women’s rights but was accident-prone and a menace to a Ranger. My story MissTaken Identity in the MissAdventure Brides Collection was born.
Little tidbits like the ones I learned at the museum will live on in my mind for a long time and probably spark several more stories. Doing that hands-on research was worth more than words can ever say.
Enjoy the journey,
KimberleyHow Did They Do That? thoughts from @kimwoodhouse #ACFWBlogs @ACFWTweets #writing #research www.acfw.com/blog Click To Tweet
Kimberley Woodhouse is the best-selling author of more than fifteen books who loves the JOY of story. A lover of history and research, she often gets sucked into the past and then her husband has to lure her out with chocolate. She lives and writes in Montana. https://kimberleywoodhouse.com