Friday, July 21, 2023

Research; How far do you go?

I was wondering, when standing in a field up to my knees in mud, in the rain, with a camera, how far other authors go for authenticity. I enjoy the gritty reaserch of coffee shops and carrot cake – very important to the murder investigation. I have no real reason to do this as my detective eats the diet of a dancer; green tea and fresh air.

I did once get stuck in a skip while trying to demonstrate that it is impossible to get out of a skip in a tight skirt. I should have make alternative plans before I climbed into the skip and proved myself correct. A lovely policeman came along and sorted it  out for me. 

He gave me a helping hand, literally.

So in this new book, as is my want, I have put a person in a place. A remote secure place in a deep wood. They have been abducted, and are about to escape. What would my character do?

 They would run, obviously.

 But where to? What decision does the human brain make in such a situation?

And Scotland is quite small, and in many bits there's hardly anybody there permanently. But,  there's folk traipsing all over the place now for all kinds of reasons, which can both work and not work for the story - the  baddies delivering the victim or moving them can have an explanation for being there or the victim could be heard shouting for help by a hiker. But I don't want that, so I need deep, deep into the wood. Wild campers tend to be in predictable places so the choice of property can deal with that one. Remote.... but near a logging track. And a boring logging track that leads to nothing worth photographing.

Nowhere near anything pretty or the North Coast 500.

 The photos attached to the blog show the terrain that our little hero is trying to traverse - with a bad leg. He has escaped but he's not feeling too good.

So where would they go?

Where would instinct tell him to go?

 Our hero has decided to try and make the break at night, he could get some very nice injuries if he ran into a old rusty wire fence that could catch him at waist height. So I think that might happen to him.

And would slow him up if anybody was chasing him.

Can't decide yet if he's being chased. If so, who by?  There are no dangerous animals here, apart from homo sapiens but by this time in the book, the reader knows that.

 Or would he go quietly, stealthily, down the slight trench caused by a rivulet coming down the side of the ben.  And have I written what he’s going to be wearing something on his feet as that has a big impact on his choice of where to go. And with all I have put him through, it would seem cruel to give him cold. wet feet as well. 

He or me has to make that decision.

Track or stream?

As any good crime writer knows, dogs do not follow scent on the ground. They follow vapour trails in the air, so going through water will not  harm the  tracking of those that follows. If they have a well trained dog wth them, like a Polsa (search team)  dog, they will track him no bother.  But my dog? No chance unless our hero has some carrot cake around his person.

 Downhill for one thing. Through the trees – would that be easier that over the grassy area with  dead trees? The stumps? Dead sheep? The old bits of fencing?

There's old fencing in this pic, difficult to see but there's no way round it. In bad light, he'd run into it. he might run in to the dead sheep/deer/haggis at some point. That could be useful to orientate the reader - oh, they must be close to where the remote cabin is as they've seen the dead haggis.

Some of the woods in this book are large enough that people do walk in and never walk out. Sometimes it is deliberate.

The dead trunks sticking out the ground could be lethal if our hero runs into them.

This picture shows an interesting thing, well interesting to me. The foresty commission, for some reason, plant trees in perfecty straight lines,  and very close together so they grow quickly in a quest for light. It also makes them splindly and liable to keel over in  strong winds

 Here four have gone over, four joined together in a perfect row and the ground pulled up  forms a perfect clam shell type shelter that could make a good hidey hole. Though for obvious reasons it'll be on the windy side of things.

I hope nobody ever finds my notes as I could be arrested.

This mass of trees, trunks, dead things and undergrowth shows the ordered chaos of nature. And is metaphorical for the chaos of my first draft.

Caro ( deep in a wood, miles from a coffee shop)



  1. The decision tree involved in writing a wide-ranging novel has many leaves. Fortunately, you were smart enough to log your research, so you'll be able to root through it for the details you need to complete your work. Just be careful you don't bark your shins along the way.

  2. wrt fences: might they be tall? Akin to the kind the forestry commission erects to keep deer out. They wouldn't look conspicuous despite not being used for that purpose. There's usually some sort of gate fence, which may or may not be padlocked, to add to the tension.