I've just recently learned that you can do anything if you tell people it's research for a novel. Since NaNoWriMo starts this Saturday, I've spent the last couple evenings feverishly scribbling out a plot outline. Ever hear that saying "write what you know"? The only things I seem to know, in order of knowingness, are:
3. Computer programming
Let's take a look at this list.
A book about books sounds kind of lame. Plus, there are several new books out right now covering that theme.
A book about beer? I'm down with that. I could make a pub crawl across the country, sampling all the different kinds of brew. Actually, I don't think my bank account (or liver) could handle such a grandiose plan.
Could a reader remain interested (or at least awake) for over 300 pages of computer programming and office humor? Yeah, it's called Microserfs. I could write a programming manual, but that's... that's not a bad idea. I could invent my own programming language and make a fake and funny manual about it. Don't steal my idea! The only problem with this is that it wouldn't be a novel. It would be shelved in the 'Humor' section of a bookstore, only purchased as a Christmas present for that cousin you have that works with computers but you don't really know what he likes. He'd probably like something like this. Then the book spends the rest of it's existence on his bathroom floor, next to the toilet. But it's still a good idea. [Licking tip of pen] I'll just jot this down right here.
Vermont. Here's something I would like to write about but I'm afraid the book might end up being a slap in the face to my state. I do not want to write about all the yuppie people that moved up here from Long Island and call themselves "Vermonters". But if I showcase the real people (eg. my family), there's going to be a lot of 4-wheeling, shotgun shooting, tobacco spitting, cow tipping hillbillies running around in overalls with no shirt or shoes on.
But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Small town living doesn't have to make for a boring read. Hey, it can even win you a Pulitzer. So small town living in Vermont... This town has got to have a general store, one school (encompassing K-12), post office, fire department (volunteer, of course), police station... Now, if I put this town way up in northern Vermont, right on the Canadian border, what would happen if some of the high school kids went up in Canada, bought some beer and tried to smuggle it back in? Would the border patrol catch them?
I visit the U.S. Border Patrol webpage and see that Vermont is in the Swanton Sector. In fact, Swanton is in Vermont. I see a phone number to call if you'd like to visit the office. Hell yeah I wanna visit the office. I've already got some questions: Does the BP cover every single road that connects Vermont to Canada? There are at least 2 dozen marked roads but probably just as many unmarked 4th class roads and trails. What about lakes that the US and Canada shares? Does the BP patrol in boats as well? And snowmobiles in the wintertime?
I place the call and talk to super nice Border Patrol people. I tell them that I'm doing research for a novel and would like to ask some questions about what the USBP does. I'm also going to write this up for YPR. I ask if it would be all right to stop by next weekend (I'll be up in Burlington on Friday night for the Atmosphere concert). The man wonders if Saturday is what I had in mind. I inquire as to whether or not they're open on Saturdays and am promptly laughed at. The U.S. Border Patrol is "open" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Duh. Of course. I'm told to come on up, they'll have an agent waiting for me and I can watch a video that the new recruits watch. Cool. After a little more finagling, they said they'd have a Canadian Mountie waiting for me, too. Double cool plus.
Like I said, if it's research for a novel, you can do anything.