What I’ve Learned From Fiction

I was watching a romantic comedy yesterday in which the heroine announced she was a pluviophile. A what? Good thing the movie was recorded. My husband and I ran it back, listened a few times and finally caught the word. Then I looked it up. As it turns out, a pluviophile is someone who loves the rain. Those folks get the same euphoric boost from rainy weather that others do from sunny days.

It made we wonder what else I’ve learned from fiction. Aside from historical fiction that sent me to the library or, in this century, to the Internet to learn about such staples of Georgian life as reticules and Corinthians, what other elements of trivia had I picked up by osmosis as I read romance?

Well…I now can identify monkey puzzle trees (from “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”) and have a keener appreciation of beach glass thanks to Claire Cook’s novel “Life’s a Beach.” Recently, reading Cora Seton’s “The Navy Seal’s E-Mail Order Bride,” I learned that cattle, while counted by head (as in “Zane has 40 head of cattle”) are also counted by pair, as in “I need to buy 6 pair — cows and calves — to rebuild the herd.” Growing up in ranching country, you would have thought I’d have known that!

My life is richer for these bits of information. Sometimes they’re even worth a few points in Scrabble.

Moral of the story: People learn from the darnedest things. Sometimes it’s just a snippet of fresh knowledge. Sometimes it’s a lot.

My soon to be released novel Home to Glenhoolie, is an example. Laird Glenhoolie is developing a wind farm. Naturally, details from real wind farms are woven into the story. Did you know it takes 1,000 tons of concrete to form the base of a large wind turbine? Or that the industrial scale blades have been thrown a few feet short of a mile when they came apart during operation? That’s not the focus of the story, but it’s part of the world the characters inhabit so it’s good to get the facts straight.

Think about it. As writers, you can entertain and inform, imparting snippets of knowledge that enrich readers’ lives in small, but countless ways. As readers, what tidbits have you found that make your life more interesting?

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