My favorite kind of research involves going somewhere to do what you might call location scouting. That's what I did yesterday, taking a day off from work to travel to a wild place that looks like this:
A river with waterfalls, surrounded by woods. At this place, I was able to wander around in peace and quiet while plotting out a story I have to write for an anthology. I got a feel for the river and its banks and took photos I can refer to later. An escape into nature for a day, a morning and part of an afternoon walking around in the area where I've chosen to set this story. Where best to have the crime occur, or the body to be found?
If the river in the pictures looks narrow, that's because it is, and if the building in the picture above makes you suspect I'm in a city here, that's because I am. I took a drive from the central Brooklyn neighborhood where I live to the northern Bronx and the Bronx Zoo area to get reacquainted with the Bronx River, around which this story I'm supposed to write revolves. It's a crime fiction anthology, yes, but each story has to feature a river in some fashion, with proceeds to go to a river conservation group. But why the Bronx River? Not exactly a mighty torrent. It's because when the person organizing the book, a fellow New Yorker, asked me to pick a river, he said outright, "Don't say the Hudson." Which, of course, I would have picked. I had to think for a minute in order to find another river I could write about, and then it dawned on me how many times since childhood I've visited the Bronx Zoo and walked over, past, and alongside the river that runs right through it. The Bronx River runs for about 24 miles from Westchester County (north of New York City), down through the heart of the Bronx, and over the last several years, thanks to the efforts of many, it has gone through much clean-up work. Go there in the summer, and the entire greenway can look pretty lush. From certain vantage points, whether you're on its bank or canoeing down it, you'd never know you're in a city.
Anyhow, I had a lovely day skipping work and strolling along the riverside paths. The zoo on a Monday in March isn't crowded, and the calm was conducive to thinking. I made progress plotting out the story, though I do have details to work out.
They'll come (I hope).
Let's see. Gotta have the river in there, but should I involve any animals? A body disposed of in the reptile house with the crocodiles? Or maybe the corpse is dumped in the river, blood flowing downstream...