Jennifer Hillier

Dead bodies, prisons, and revisions: just your average Monday

Mar 8, 2011 | Uncategorized

I don’t know about you, but I don’t do any research at all during a first draft. I’m very single-minded in the early stages of a book, and my focus is on getting the story down as quickly as possible before I lose my mojo. So I pretty much write all my first drafts in panic mode, with the thought that any research I need to do can happen later.

Well, kids, it’s Later.

I’ve been waist deep in revisions since January, but it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that things have finally started to come together. I’ve been working intensely on my opening, trying to make it – horrible pun alert… wait for it – KILLER, but because of my opening scenes (a decomposing body, a character incarcerated in a maximum security prison), I’ve had to stop and do my research. A lot of research.

I’ve got my homicide textbooks to refer to, but those really aren’t for the faint of heart. I can only read them for bits at a time, because the full-color crime scene photos are a lot to digest. People really do die in horrible ways, and while it’s one thing to write about that, it’s a whole other thing to look at photos of people who have actually died.

I do have to send a shout-out to Lydia Kang, who had a fantastic post on her blog today as part of her Medical Mondays series. Curious about how dead bodies decompose? Then read THIS.

As for the prison stuff, I’m thinking a visit to one of the many facilities here in the state of Washington might be in order. I’m definitely working on this one. Because I can’t exactly watch The Shawshank Redemption twenty more times and call it research.

Here’s a prison I have been to: Alcatraz. Took this pic when I went on a tour back in 2008. The inside is just as confining as it looks on the outside.

When do you research your stories?  Before, during, or after a first draft?