Thursday, February 28, 2008


As a writer, I need to know all sorts of arcane stuff. When I'm writing fantasy, of course I get to make a lot of it up--but I have to have a bit of an idea where the stuff I'm making up comes from. However, fantasy isn't all I write.

I'm currently working on a historical novel set in WWII, in China and the Pacific. There's a LOT of research involved.

So, last night I had a banquet to go to. The fella is in higher education, and we got invited to the local Chamber of Commerce awards banquet. This year, it was held in an airplane museum, which is in large part a series of interconnected hangars full of vintage airplanes. Unheated hangars.

Now, we're on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, so it's not like we battle a lot of snowstorms. Or even much in the way of cold weather. But when it's 60 F outside (or slightly below), and the inside isn't heated--that's just a little too cold to be sitting around eating dinner. It got cold in that hangar. But that's really not the point of this post.

See--there were all these old airplanes. I got a big kick out of wandering around looking at them. There was a B-17 bomber--the old Flying Fortress--those are some big birds. And an RAF Spitfire. There was a PBY Catalina "flying boat." And then I saw it. A plane with its wings folded up, almost making an A-frame over its long body. The EXACT plane flown by the hero in the book I'm working on.

I got all excited and went to walk around it, studied how the anchor bars holding the wings in their folded position were fastened on, looked at as many details as I could try to grab hold of.
Then, when I mentioned that it was THE plane, one of the ladies at our table mentioned that she was friends with one of the higher-ups at the museum, and could probably get me a close-up look at the cockpit, maybe even arrange for me to take pictures.

Serendipity happens like that. When you need a particular thing, so many times it just falls in your lap. I wasn't even looking for information when I went to this dinner. It just appeared.

Sometimes it's an opportunity. Sometimes it's information you need. Sometimes it's a person. What kind of wonderful thing has happened to you like that? Share your serendipity.


CaroleMcDonnell said...

OOh, i love it! And it is sooo true. It's as if the universe is urging you to finish and telling you the story is what you were meant to write. Thanks for that. -C

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, what WAS the aircraft? From your description (the folding wings), it was carrier-based and used in the Pacific Theater.

F4F Wildcat?
F6F Hellcat?
SBD Dauntless?
TBM Avenger?

And museums are often cooperative to writers doing research. Another possibility, if you're researching a particular unit or period or theater, is to contact the Navy or Marines (search websites or phone bases) and find their unit historians. (Of all the Armed Forces, USN and USMC take their history the most seriously, and a lot of their unit historians will jump at the chance to help out on some serious research. If nothing else, it's a lot more interesting than the usual questions they field.)