This is called “research”

And this is how you do it:

I took a bracing, I-am-totally-confident-and-I-do-this-all-the-time-and-it-is-no-big-deal-and-I-am-not-acting-like-a-weirdo breath. “Yes, I have a question. I’m a writer and I need to speak to the owner of that cute little VW convertible out in the parking lot.”

One of the women stopped, scissors open above a clump of hair held up by a comb. She glanced down at my camera, then up at me. “That’s my car.”

I trotted over to her. “I’m a writer and I’ve just written a scene which takes place in your car, well, not your car, but a car just like yours, and I realized I wasn’t sure about the interior of the car. Would you mind if I get a few pictures of it?”

I’d have chickened out and bought a Volkswagen sales brochure on eBay. Then again, I’m not a writer.


  1. Melanie Sherman »

    2 July 2012 · 9:15 pm


    No one said writing was easy. Research is a tough, dirty job, but someone has to do it. Luckily I haven’t been arrested. Yet.

  2. Joanne »

    2 July 2012 · 9:26 pm

    “I am a writer,” sounds impressive. People automatically think that writers are smart. People feel flattered being ‘interviewed by ‘smart writers!. Saying that you are a writer worked. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

  3. sya »

    2 July 2012 · 9:31 pm

    I’ve interviewed people before for various writing projects, but I’ve never gone up to a random stranger to ask questions for the sake of research. I’d probably, like you, exhaust all possibilities on the internet first.

  4. Charles Pergiel »

    3 July 2012 · 2:09 pm

    I take pictures of whatever I want (if it’s out in public). I don’t publish identifying marks, like license plates. On the rare occasion when I want a picture of a person, I ask before I take their picture, and give them a card with my contact info, in case they change their minds.

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