Monday, November 22, 2010


By Laura Curtis

You've heard the hoary old saying a million times: write what you know. I've never really believed that. Instead, I feel strongly that you should write what you can--and want to--research. If you write crime fiction, for example, you should take a class at a firing range so you can see how shooting feels. That way you don't have to rely on other people's descriptions.

Some of this you can simulate. For example, if you are going to write a car chase, you don't want to drive 100mph yourself--it's hard to write the great American novel if you're dead. But you can ride a roller coaster and see what kind of sensations the speed gives you, how it feels to be on the very edge of loss of control.

My latest research adventure started at RWA, where I got tired of answering the question: "what do you write." On a rather long night, I answered "I write whatever I get paid to write. I'd write a heroine who sells sex toys if I thought it would sell." Much giggling ensued at the table, and when I got home, I thought "why not?"

And so, my latest WIP was born.

Unfortunately, I knew nothing whatsoever about the sex toy industry. But I quickly found out that you could have a sex toy party at your house! Awesome! I went over to Passion Parties and set up a party.  I invited a ton of people. The wonderful Carol Marie came and did show-and-tell for us. We had wine and cheese and fruit and, most of all, laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.

I learned a great deal about sex toys and quite a bit about some of my friends, too! I tried out creams and lotions I never would have known about, let alone been able to describe. And since my friends knew the party was for research, I carefully wrote down the funniest of their comments for future use. (I also bought some products as giveaways for when the book gets published. Think positive!)

Last night, I wrote the "sex toy party" scene for the WIP. It took next to no time because the information was all there, right at my fingertips, as it were.

If you're trying to add realistic detail to your current project, why not give in-person research a shot? If you're writing about a garden, go up to the Botanical Gardens and smell everything, for example.

And if at all possible, do your research with wine and friends.♥

Laura K. Curtis lives in Mount Kisco with her husband and three crazed Irish Terriers, which is probably why she spends her time dreaming of love and murder.  She has an online shop where she sells her glasswork, and her beads have been featured on the cover of Step By Step Wire Jewelry magazine.  She has written for Art Jewelry magazine and academic journals, and will have a short story in the anthology MURDER, NEW YORK STYLE II, coming in 2011 from L&L Dreamspell.  She can be found on Twitter at @laurakcurtis and she blogs at


  1. Sounds like you had a great time with the research, Laura. Thanks for the reminder that the best sources aren't always found in the library, or *shudder* on Wikipedia.

  2. Loved this Laura. Party sounds like loads of fun. Especially withwime and friends. Excellent point about write what you can too. I'm a big believer in this.

  3. I know that must have been a fun party! Thanks for this post.

  4. Fabulous post, Laura. I'm definitely one of those who believes firmly in doing what you can and pushing yourself to research, experience or explore in order to enhance your story. And when it can't be done - for safety's sake (and what a great suggestion for a substitution for speed!) - say, fighting a fire - you can talk to those who DO, or read the memoirs of those who have. I recall a very powerful blog post by Lee Lofland on his experience when he shot and killed a suspect during a police stand-off gun battle. His reaction was far different than I might have imagined, and very powerful. Sometimes that tiny, nuanced snipped of detail can be the difference between riveting your reader and having them yawn and turn out the light. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone! And any time you ladies need a passion party, holler and I'll set you up with Carol Marie!

  6. Sounds like a great party! But be careful about smelling all the flowers if you have allergies Seriously, I agree research is EVERYTHING when it comes to making a story believable.

  7. It was a FUN party! Thanks for hosting! And now my sex toy scenes in Regency England will write themselves, too. Well, they might.