I haven’t written much about The Ternion Order story world on The Vaetra Files, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because I’m almost done with the first draft of Book Two (as yet untitled). In this article, I’m going to share a little background about Kyle’s exciting car ride toward his destiny with Clarissa in First Moon.
One of my favorite aspects of writing fiction is getting the chance to research subjects that interest me. With First Moon, one of those subjects was the Jaguar E-Type automobile. I’ve always thought it was one of the sleekest and sexiest cars ever made. It was a perfect fit for Clarissa, the woman who seduces Kyle at the beginning of the story. Clarissa’s Jag was black, but the image below shows essentially the same car:
I didn’t choose the Jaguar E-Type randomly. The encounter between Kyle and Clarissa was inspired by the song “Howl at the Moon” by an obscure 1970s band named Klaatu. (For what it’s worth, Klaatu is my second favorite band of all time, after Electric Light Orchestra.) In the song, the woman drives a Jaguar, so Clarissa could do no less. What was I going to do? Have her drive a Tercel? No way.
I still had to decide what kind of Jaguar she drove, so off I went in search of Jaguar images. The E-Type instantly stood out to me as the quintessential Jaguar, so I dug deeper into its history. I learned that the car was produced from 1961 to 1975 in three versions/series. After reviewing the details of each series, I picked the E-Type I’d personally like to own: a 1969 Series 2 convertible.
A Sensory Experience
While the history and statistics of the car were interesting, the story demanded a compelling sensory experience that would accurately reflect Clarissa’s personality and enhance her grip on Kyle’s attentions. The problem was that I’ve never actually driven a Jaguar E-Type.
It seemed unlikely that I could locate such a car and convince the owner to let me drive it, so I did the next best thing. I interviewed someone who had driven one. As it turned out, one of my neighbors does auto restoration and customization and has worked on many Jaguars over the years. His wife, also a fan of the make, agreed to speak with me about the driving experience. An hour on the phone and many notes later, I had a better appreciation for what it might be like to take my dream car out for a spin.
Here’s an excerpt from First Moon to give you an idea of how it turned out:
Clarissa turned the key in the ignition and the motor started on the first turn, settling immediately into a low purr. She buckled her seat belt and Kyle followed her example. Kyle caught her watching him with a secret smile while he soaked up every detail of the Jag’s interior. She backed out of the parking spot and rolled through the lot toward the exit. As she swung the long front end onto the highway, Kyle sat back and enjoyed the powerful and smooth acceleration. The car reached for more road with every shift of her practiced hand, and in no time they were cruising at sixty miles an hour.
All for Twenty Paragraphs
No matter how interesting the research might be, the majority of what I learn never makes it into the story. An important aspect of applying research is winnowing out the details that will best serve the story and revealing them at the moment they become most important to the reader.
All told, Kyle’s ride with Clarissa in her Jaguar encompasses about twenty paragraphs of First Moon. It was a joy to combine my notes regarding the driving experience together with the statistical details I’d found and weave them into the interaction between the characters. My hope is that anyone who has actually driven one of the cars will read that part of First Moon and think, “Yep. That’s what it’s like.”
The Quest for a Vicarious Thrill
In some ways, it’s dispiriting to think about how many hours of research are often distilled into just a few paragraphs, or even just a few words, of story. Occasionally, research turns into a rabbit hole that sucks up time uselessly as my interests distract me onto pathways that have nothing to do with my original quest for knowledge. But most of the time, the details I need for the story are not conveniently gathered together in one spot. In fact, I sometimes don’t know exactly what I’m looking for until I find it.
My Jaguar research may seem like it took up a lot more time than twenty paragraphs would warrant, and perhaps that’s true. All I know is how I feel when I read over the resulting passage. I hope my readers get the same vicarious thrill that I do.