Saturday, July 23, 2011

Oh the Places You’ll Go (Researching a Book)!

New writers always hear the caveat: Write what you know. I have to admit, I am uncomfortable writing about things I don’t feel I know enough about. Perhaps that’s the years as a journalist coming out in me, I don’t know. Most of the time, I’m able to draw upon my life experiences to help with that. Let’s face it, the older you get, the more varied experiences you have.

Over the years, I’ve been in car accidents, navigated through forests with a compass and a map, slept in houses built before Columbus sailed to America—I’ve even been airlifted off a mountain in Switzerland.

Sailing appears in a couple of my manuscripts. This is something I’ve only done once, so I had to supplement my scanty knowledge with a lot of research, which included watching a lot of how-to videos (yawn) and studying the types and parts of boats. I’ll freely admit, my knowledge is far from perfect and still not where it should be, but so far no one from the yacht club has come knocking at my door to give me a citation for being a nautical numbskull.

But then I came to a story, as yet unpublished, that follows some of the characters that will be introduced in Bittersweet. The heroine of this particular story is a stripper. Well…not only have I not done that (and be thankful for that because I would probably fall off the stage or tell the first guy who tried to tuck something in my G-string what he could do with his fingers before I ripped them from his knuckles)but I’d never even been in a strip club.

So…I turned to my friend the Internet. I researched laws regarding strip clubs for this particular geographic area, read as much as I could about salaries and pay. I watched videos on the Internet, including how-to videos for pole dancing—yes, they’re out there(yawn)—but I was still not quite comfortable with the results because, unlike my one and only sailing foray, I’d not actually been to a strip club.

That’s where my ever helpful research assistant, and in this instance, highly motivated—my husband, comes in. While his checkered past did include personal experience with strip clubs (gasp!), he was more than willing to make the sacrifice by accompanying me to one because, God knows, I wasn’t going anywhere near one alone.

I learned several things:
There aren’t many women, other than employees, in strip clubs.
Men really will walk right up to strange women on stage hoping to have breasts, or other things, flashed in their faces (very closely, I might add).
After the first couple of dances, bare breasts and butts begin to look alike.
No one should try to walk far in the shoes strippers wear.
The whole pole dancing thing requires an amazing amount of upper body strength. The stripper I talked to has biceps to rival most guys.
If you’re a woman in a strip bar—the dancers will be hitting on you instead of your husband. Okay…that was an eww factor, but funny.
Being inside a strip club is like being inside a Casino—no windows, no clocks and an atmosphere where smiling people want to make sure you’re having a good time while they suck the money out of your pockets.

So, in the end, I also learned that my research had been pretty solid. I might go back and tweak a couple of things in my story in order to paint a more vivid word picture, but overall I’d done okay.

I guess if writers have bucket lists, I can say I just checked one item off it.


  1. Kudos to you, Laura! Even with my husband at my side, I wouldn't have the nerve to step inside a strip club! Lol. Cute post.

  2. Ha! LOL Good for you!! I have a particular scene in one of my books and I refused to go beyond the Internet for my research. ;) Watching the videos was bad enough! ;)

  3. Lol! Brave woman - I applaud your dedication to realism! What a hilarious story. :)

  4. Hee, so funny! I've actually taken a few pole dancing classes. (It's kind of trendy right now as exercise.) It's fun, but I can't do anything cool yet. ;) Still not sure I'd have the nerve to go to a strip club though.