Even with all the advances in technology and all the material out there, researching a particular subject can be difficult. Their are simply some things that don’t translate well on the page, which makes learning the material difficult and not everyone can afford a trip or a class on the subject they are researching. I do a lot of research online. I ask random people if they know anything, sometimes they’ll surprise you. and have answers you never considered.
For example, I wanted my next scene set in France. Not Paris. I posted on Facebook asking for suggestions. And I got a great one. Reims, France. With that lead, I started a basic search, history, pictures. I liked what I saw so I dug deeper. Maps, both virtual and real, books, websites. This was all made difficult by the fact a lot of the websites were in French. And their are some things you either have to guess at or be really lucky about finding. For example, what does Reims smell like? Grapes? Champaign? Chocolate? Perfume? River? Something else? What does it sound like? Chatter in French and English? Trains rolling by? Tolling bells? Really I can only guess.
Figuring out what to have my characters specifically do there, while the non-location related event happens has been a challenged. What would be interesting for readers to see? What is unusual but potentially new? I kept returning to tour barges in Reims. Because touring old buildings I haven’t been too didn’t seem right, and since Arabella is basking in the sunlight sending her into a Champaign Cave seemed cruel. But those are the things that are most advertised as happening in Reims.
I looked deeper into the barge idea. Where would the boat take passengers? Where could and would it stop? What would passengers see from the barge? How big are these things? How expensive?
Wait, what’s this? While searching for “What’s outside of Reims?” I find Hot Air Ballooning? Really? Hmmm. My search starts anew. What does Hot Air Ballooning involve? How many people can fit in a basket at a time? I found the option of going Hot Air Ballooning in Boise and experiencing it for myself. But for the price I’d be required to pay…well, lets say that under my current circumstances I’m more likely to see Satan Ice Skating in the South Pacific before I can afford that experience. It sounds marvelous though.
Research reveals that normally the pilot will take no more than three people up with him or her at a time. I’ve only seen prices offering to take two people up. So I’m wandering if their is a reason why a single person can’t go up with just the pilot or if that is such a rare occurrence they didn’t bother listing it as a price on the website. If their is a reason why more than one person needs to go up with the pilot, then the idea of making Remy a pilot is thrown to bits and I’ll probably need to find another form of privacy and entertainment in one that’s non-traditional.
Again, I was stuck wandering, where would my characters land if they went up in a hot air balloon? Could it be somewhere in the mountains, in the woods? And what would they realistically find there? Considering my characters abilities I’m not too worried about them finding their way home.
Research takes a lot of time to do properly. I’ve emailed both a hot air balloon company about the information I need. And asked for the tourism department of Reims for help. If I’m lucky, I’ll have answers in a few days. Until I get the responses I’ll work on finding them all online. Hopefully, I’ll have some hair left by the time I finish this scene.
What do you do for research on things you can’t experience? Or learn on your own? Do you know much about Reims France or Hot Air Ballooning?