Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

This is a guest post by Charlotte Morganti.

For writers, research can be a joy, a pain, an obligation, a treasure hunt, a Pandora’s box, a journey (often wonderful, sometimes weird), or the best form of procrastination ever invented. Count me among the authors in the last two camps.

When I research, even for the answer to the most narrow question (such as, how much does a four-month-old Percheron weigh), it doesn’t take long before I realize I’ve been following Yogi Berra’s advice by taking every fork in the road as I meander through the internet. I will have discovered the many breeds of draft horses, studied pictures of cute foals, listened to the sounds horses make when they communicate and recorded the dimensions of an adult Percheron’s hoof. 

As enlightening as it can be when following Yogi’s way, it often means the story takes forever to make it from my head to the page. So, of necessity, I’ve developed two approaches to research.

  1. Times when Yogi leads the way:

When I’m mapping out a possible story or trying to find that elusive idea, Yogi’s mantra comes in handy. It’s by taking those forks in the road that I often find a perfect prompt or piece of information. Such as the discovery that there is a National Sneak a Zucchini Onto Your Neighbour’s Porch Day. Isn’t that a completely fantastic thing? (It’s August 8th, by the way.)

  1. Times when I send Yogi to the dugout:

Once I’ve outlined the story and begun writing it, I can’t listen to Yogi. Stopping the writing to research a question inevitably means that I don’t get back to the first draft for hours. So I now try to force myself to put a question mark in my draft manuscript where something needs research, and then do that research once the first draft is finished. I say “try to” because if I am avoiding writing and looking for ways to procrastinate I will often sneak in a bit of research – that way, I can tell myself I’m not really procrastinating.

If I had to pick a favourite approach, it would be to listen to Yogi and take that fork in the road. The discovery of National Sneak a Zucchini Onto Your Neighbour’s Porch Day led to my short story Squashed to Death.  It also led to the creation of two of my favourite characters, the crime-fighting duo of Persimmon Worthing and Sergeant Courgette, and spawned a series of short stories set in the fictional town of Blossom City, B.C.

The research about Percherons led to the birth of Hollywood Hank, a Percheron gelding who believes he really is too sexy for his harness and who plays a crucial role in my upcoming novel The End Game. In case you’re wondering, Percheron foals are definitely not lightweights, and a full-grown Percheron’s hoof is about the size of a dinner plate. 

My inner critic tells me that if I were more disciplined I’d keep Yogi in the dugout and focus on researching only the exact question I need answered. But when I think of the wonderful factoids and ideas generated by following twists and turns in the research (zucchini as a murder weapon and a horse with the personality of a Hollywood star are only two) I realize the inner critic ought to take a lengthy timeout.

Charlotte Morganti writes short and long crime fiction, ranging from gritty to light. She splits her time between the Sunshine Coast of B.C. and Calgary. You can learn more about her and her writing at https://charlottemorganti.com.

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