Stakeouts, knives, graffiti, and more: The truth about researching THE KNIFE AND THE BUTTERFLY

Last week I told you to go see an expert instead of cruising the Internet for information. Now I get down off my high horse and tell you about my own research while writing The Knife and the Butterfly (coming in 2012).

Okay, so lots of times research for my writing takes place in the comforting company of books. Among other things, I read tons of interviews with MS-13 gang members, combed scholarly works on gang culture and inner-city experience, paged through dozens of street artists’ black books, and dug into linguistic textbooks to understand the (different) structure of Salvadoran Spanish. 

But here are my top non-book research experiences in writing The Knife and the Butterfly .

My (daytime) stakeouts in Southwest Houston while researching The Knife and the Butterfly. Less glamorous than it sounds since I left tailing gangmembers to investigative reporters. Mostly I just watched an apartment building for an afternoon and took lots of pictures of the area.

Finding out how a particular knife (important to the story) would actually be used, which I did by joining The great thing was how helpful lots of the responders on the forum were in responding to my questions. Less awesome was how touchy some folks got at an outsider asking a question, but, hey, I learned what I needed to learn to make sure that I got my knife scenes right. And my book’s not an anti-knife manifesto or anything. Doesn’t that count for something?

Emailing a doctor friend for the down-low on a particular chest wound. (I wish I could tell you more, but then…). The detail he offered was awesome. So much better than what I got when I tried Googling my question. Seriously, y’all, don’t forget to ask smart people the questions you have. Use your networks! (See last week’s post for my call to ask an expert.)

Tracking Houston graffiti and street art through Flickr, I love you. Can we please be best friends forever?

Watching videos on YouTube to listen to Salvadoran Spanish.

Wow, a lot of Internet cruising there, huh?  So maybe take all my advice (like last week’s) with a grain of salt. And think outside the Wikipedia box when using the Internet.


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