Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

March 9, 2010

Researching a Scene

Filed under: On Writing,SEED Novel — Frank Fiore @ 11:48 AM

I thought it might be interesting for you all to see how I research a scene for a chapter in a book I’m writing. That book is called SEED and is the second book in a three book series called the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash.

In SEED, Jeremy Nash arrives home after a harrowing trip by plane across the Atlantic in terrible weather to find a Hopi Indian maiden waiting for him at his sister’s house. She tells them she has something for the eldest son of his father that will prove his parents were murdered – and lead him to their killers. She gives him an invoice for a Kachina doll order with strange code words on it that leads to a series of clues to the 2012 End Times Hopi predictions – and the secret organization that murdered his parents for what they discovered.

On of the secondary plots of SEED is group of eco-terrorist led by a man named Hayden Mayer. He claims to be the Pahana – the white man predicted by the Hopi legend who will lead the Hopi and mankind into the Fifth World by purifying the Four Corners area of Arizona where the Sipapu – the entrance to the Fifth World – is located.

The purification of the Four Corners area precipitates the destruction of the Glen Canyon dam on the Colorado River.

If the dam can be destroyed, below Glen Canyon Dam a tidal wave would blast through the Grand Canyon, inundating its steep walls and leaving nothing alive. Three hundred miles downstream, a wall of water 70-feet high would surge over the parapet of Hoover Dam, causing it to collapse. Then, each of the smaller dams below Hoover on the Colorado River would topple in turn. From Glen Canyon to the Gulf of California, the river would have destroyed each obstacle that Man had placed in its path, just as it had destroyed many natural obstacles in its five-million year history.

That would do a good job of purifying the area.

The scene I had to write called for much research about dams, Glen Canyon dam in particular, generators at the dam, and other necessary information to make the battle at the dam believable.

The research was done entirely with Google.

First I ran search on dams in general to learn about their construction. Lots of info on that. Then I ran a search on Glen Canyon dam itself. This is where the Google search results become more valuable than my initial search word. The first few results called up specific information on the dam but the other results on that page and next led to different dam disasters and helped me construct two things for the action scene.

First, a fire in a dam in Russia – a fire in the generator room and how it led to a disastrous explosion. Second, a pdf paper about deficiencies at the Glen Canyon dam 30 years ago and how a test showed a weakness in the spillway construction. I used this information to construct the action scene at the dam.

Of course, it was Nash’s job to stop the eco-terrorists from carrying it out. I was able to make the conflict believable by reading tourist blogs and diary entries about trips to the dam and the visitor tours that gave me a step by step description of the entire Glen Canyon Dam. Armed with that information I was able to move the characters around the dam and use that knowledge in the final conflict.

Finally, I used Google Earth to look down on the dam and surrounding area to orient my characters at and around the Glen Canyon dam.

This scene took almost 3 months to write but in the end I’m satisfied with the results.


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