Fight Club

My wife got clocked by a goat over the weekend.

Really. She was over at a cousin’s house helping my daughter, the future goatherd, get acquainted with her future herd. One of the goats that (thankfully) will not be making the trip over bounded toward my wife and rammed its head into her chin.

I was trying to be a good husband and help her take care of her wound when she got home, but she got suspicious of my line of questioning. I kept asking about details that went beyond the normal realm of being a sympathetic husband.

Finally, she confronted me. “You’re going to put this in a book, aren’t you?”

So I came clean. No, my plans were not to have someone get attacked by an overzealous goat in And/News or any future novel. But it did occur to me that the impact of goat skull on human chin could be roughly equivalent to taking a fist there.

One reason you don’t see a lot of knock-down drag-out brawls in my books is that they’re not realistic. They’re Hollywood. Ask anyone who has ever been in a real fight. You might trade a couple of blows and then the two of your are rolling around on the ground, jabbing and biting. As fun as the fistfight sequence is in The Quiet Man, it’s pure fantasy. And even though I’m writing fiction, I want to make it realistic.

Sometimes when I give a talk about writing, a question I am frequently asked is how much research I do on my novels. My answer is that I don’t know, because I tend to do ongoing research all of the time. I never know when a piece of information gleaned here or there will be something I can use in a novel. So while I was busy interrogating my wife about her injury, it was with my internal understanding that I would use this information someday. I just don’t know when.

So the writer’s lesson today is: Never stop asking questions. Never stop learning. You might not get an “ah-ha moment” that gives you a plot or an idea for a novel, but you will certainly find out something that you can use as the mortar that holds it all together.

NP – Eels, Electro-shock Blues


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