From the files of the very, very strange...
I have a scene in my novel where the characters, who are fighting for a community garden, must state their case in front of a suburban zoning board. Where did I find myself last night? In front of a suburban zoning board, fighting to keep our village from paving a patch of land adjacent to my property. Life imitating art, right? When I wrote the zoning board scene, I figured I got the vibe mostly right because I've sat in tons of PTO & Town Hall meetings, and I watched a Village Board meeting on government access. Turns out nothing beats actually putting yourself in your character's shoes. I stood in front of the microphone, stating my reasons in a (surprising to me) calm manner, but a trickle of sweat ran down my back, even though the room was freezing, and I was keenly aware of the camera filming me--it made me self-conscious and put me at a disadvantage with the board, who, because our suburb televises board meetings, are so used to being filmed they hardly noticed. I was surprised at how cleanly some people fit into stereotypes--the glad-handing mayor, the smarmy rich guy who liked to hear himself talk, the no-nonsense son of immigrants capable of cutting through the BS.
In the end, the board voted against us, 3-2. I'm disappointed, but not ready to give up. The Village Manager told me, "It's not over until the shovel hits the dirt." And he's right. I can fight pretty darn hard, and I will.
But I also learned an important lesson about research. Internet research is great, but nothing beats the real deal. Don't you agree?