I’m sure you are familiar with the quote, “Write what you know.” Well, I came across another quote recetly: “Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.” ~~ Valerie Sherwood.

That’s what I did in one scene of my book when my protag and her love interest went fishing. After I finished the chapter, I felt dissatisfied. The setting was right, the emotion was there and the scene helped to move the story along, but to my mind it lacked that important ingredient – authenticity. I submitted the scene to my writer’s group with a little disclaimer that I had never, in the way-more-than-half-century in which I’ve lived, gone fishing, but it was something that interested me deeply and which I thought would fit well with the island setting of my book.

My group was wonderful. They helped me fix the factual errors I’d made – despite my research – and I rewrote the scene. But I still wasn’t satisfied. So last weekend, I thought it was time. I talked one of my buddies from work into going fishing with me. We went out on one of those charter boats with six other people, including the captain and his mate. There was not much room to move around, but who cared? I was going fishing. I watched as the guy baited the hook then gave a rod to each of us. I suddenly felt self conscious, but he was patient, showing me how to cast the line until the bait could no longer be seen. Everything went fine for the first hour or so. I leapt with excitement when I felt a tug on my line, but when I reeled it in, there was no fish, and half of my bait had been bitten off.

At our second stop, the waves were choppy. The boat moved up and down, and so did my insides. I was going to be sick! When I couldn’t hold it any longer, I made a dash to the lower deck where I was sick in the tiny, not-very-well-kept bathroom. That ended my fishing experience. Excited yells from the other fishers went unheeded as all I could think of was how sick I felt and how much longer my ordeal would be. Three hours later, I heaved a sigh of relief as we pulled up My friend caught a shark!to the marina and I climbed shakily out of the boat.

So I ask again, to what lengths would you go as a writer to make your work authentic? I guess it depends on what you want to achieve in your story and how much it would cost you. Today, with the internet and television, we can easily do research from the comfort of our homes, but for me, I wanted to put myself in my character’s shoes. Was it worth it? I think so, even though my character had a much more exciting time than I did. She caught three fishes; I only caught sea-sickness. Will I do it again? Let me think about that.

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