Thursday, 5 September 2013

Up, Up and Urrgh...

I know for a fact that many of the people I meet just assume that writers don’t really get out much.

That all  their ideas come from epiphanies in the bath. That if they bother to do any research at all, then it never goes much beyond the wonders of Google.

Well that might be true of some but it's definitely not my style. Most of my inspiration still comes from the classroom. 

Studying school yard dynamics is still a bottomless pit of content for me. Plus stealing great narrative ideas is a doddle when you're the one doing all the marking.

Still, sometimes I find even that's not enough. Like last week as I inched towards the final draft of my latest novel about a school full of phobia sufferers. I could never quite shake off that nagging feeling that there was still something missing. Some essential aura of authenticity.
There was only one possible solution - I had to be my main character. I had to live in his head. To feel those emotions first hand and to know what a gut wrenching fear of heights actually felt like in the flesh.

That's why I invested a large chunk of any potential future royalties in an early morning balloon trip for me and my family. Alright so it tied in very nicely with a bucket list present for my wife’s birthday. But trust me, it was definitely all about the book.

Having my own minor fear of heights certainly helped. But would it be enough I wondered, to truly tap into the sheer terror that a real phobic would experience?

My doubts only grew as the balloon crew assured us that there really was nothing to worry about. That ballooning was quite different from climbing a ladder. That the feelings of vertigo weren't the same at all.

And they were right, it was nothing like climbing a ladder. It was more like dragging a tiny wicker basket a thousand feet up a wobbly pole during a storm and then putting your life in the hands of a giant multi-coloured carrier bag. As for the vertigo I really couldn't say. I was too busy cowering in the bottom of the basket, trying not peak through the gaps.

I did lean over just the once, but that was only because the balloon crew insisted. Whilst writing this post I've just discovered that large hailstones can reach a terminal velocity of up to 180km/h. 

So my guess is that breakfast vomit has to be about the same. The good news is, it seemed to spread out enough not to be much of a danger to anyone watching below.  

Also we were mostly flying over sheep paddocks and I’m sure they've had worse. You could tell by the way they kept running away from the balloon.

So was it worth it. Has it helped? Did I find the true essence of my novel's main character? Hopefully you'll get to read the book and find out.  

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