Writing & Research

My work in progress (WIP) is TRANSITION. I’m back at the Gregory Inn, Lake George, NY. Everything is going smoothly as I follow my rough outline until it’s not. The characters and plot development take a turn I didn’t plan for.  In other words, my WIP puzzle is missing a piece. I have to put a Disney World-like project nearby.

No problem. All I need to find is a piece of property big enough to build the thing—but where?

I’m excited. I go to Google World, pull up Lake George, expand it to Warren County, and start searching. The first thing I notice is there’s a lot of green space and few developments. Most of the housing market is around the lake—duh. It’s a gorgeous crater lake and crystal clear. The places that look ideal to me are identified as preserves. Ugh. That can’t be good. Worse, if I go south, there are a minimum of three family entertainment venues.

Should that matter? I know I’m writing fiction, but I do try to stay close to reality and make sure the world I’m creating is as close to what exists so the problems, while over-the-top, are probable.

Okay. My question is can I “buy” a preserve? As soon as I type in the question, my monitor fills with information. Lake George is part of “the Adirondack Park, created in 1892 by the State of New York amid concerns for the water and timber resources of the region. Today the Park is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Park combined. The boundary of the Park encompasses approximately 6 million acres, nearly half of which belongs to all the people of New York State and is constitutionally protected to remain “forever wild” forest preserve.”

If my character (or a real person) wants to do anything in this park, they must first deal with the Adirondack Park Agency which holds authority over 6.1 million acres which, if you divide by 640, is 9,375 square miles. The good news is more than half the Park is “private land which includes settlements, farms, timber lands, businesses, homes, and camps.” Now, my character can identify and buy some of the private land.

Next question: How much land does an amusement park require? Research. To get an idea, I picked Six Flags Great Escape and Hurricane Harbor in Queensbury, just south of Lake George. It covers 351 acres or ½ sq. mile (0.548), including parking, accommodations, an indoor water park, and a huge outdoor entertainment area offering food, a water park, rollercoasters, and other rides.

However, I’m thinking of using a Disney World model. So, more research. Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, covers 27,520 acres. That’s around 43 square miles or one-third the size of Rhode Island. That’s huge. Maybe in this case, smaller is better.

I took the time to “visit” both venues via Google Earth and used the drone perspective. There are patterns to these places, much like a golf course. Each area of focus folds in and around itself before leading a visitor to another. Space planning and visual perspective is an art. Too much information? Never! So, I do have to force myself to stop, take notes, and save links.

I’m sure some of you are mumbling to yourself, “But she’s not writing.”

So, here’s the thing with research. The more you know about the “thing” you’re researching, the more authentic writing becomes. To date, and for TRANSITION, the most research I’ve done on any topic was finding out about how the private equity and leveraging industry works. That took hours and days. Part of it was to learn the language and catchphrases of the industry so my characters sounded like people in that business.

All the details and arcane facts add to the flavor of the story and give it an authenticity that drives my interest and enjoyment in writing. The only thing better is sharing that engagement with you.


Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

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