10 Adventurous Things I’ve Done for Novel Research

Authors are crazy.

If we’re not talking to the voices in our heads, then we’re out doing things that normal humans don’t usually do voluntarily. (i.e. hunting zombies.)

I’m a firm believer in real experiences. As thrilling as it is to create new world or send characters on adventures, it’s more thrilling to experience it in real life. After all, that’s why I write — to inspire people to go out and pursue life. It’s another reason I read, because who knows when Lord of the Rings will inspire me to go on a walking quest?

So, just for fun, here are 10 things I’ve done in crazy name of novel research:

1. Walked a tightrope four stories off the ground (yes, I had a harness.) Also walked on slacklines without a harness.

2. Rode on a dogsleed, driving as the musher


3. Crawled across a river on a log

4. Crossed the Panama Canal on a ship, camping on the lake in between canals.IMG_3223

5. Chased down a boxcar train to record sounds, movement, and the size of boxcars.

6. Ate grilled cattails

7. Sailed on the open sea for four days, getting ridiculously seasick.

8. Ate a raw potato

9. Rock climbed real cliffs and man-made rock walls, as well as frayed ropes to get the right feel.

10. Walked through a cattail pond barefoot to get an idea of what it’d be like to be stuck in one for weeks.

I’ve gone on other adventures, but if I told you what they were then it would give away what’s going to happen in book two (and three) of the Out of Time series. But after doing all these things over the years (trust me…there’s more) I’ve found myself thinking along the lines of adventure more often. I push myself. I want to experience more and more of life. I’m often asked, “How do you describe this or that so accurately?”

It’s simple. I try to live it, first.

If you’re an author or artist, what have you done for the sake of research and experience?



About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I’m not sure that I’ve ever gone out and done something crazy specifically for research–but between horses, martial arts, hiking with my in-laws, and a taste for travel, all the adventures I have incidentally*definitely* inform my writing. Although, I might need to find a way to try fire spinning…

  2. I agree with Abigail. My intentional research tends to be at the library or online.

    But all of life is research of one kind or another and, well, the list of adventures that springs from living is next to endless. In no particular order:

    1. Driven across the Midwest during the worst outbreak of tornadoes in years

    2. Felt the earth move under my feet (literally). Twice. Tremors, only, but still exciting.

    3. Participated in a cattle drive

    4. Stranded in the Flint Hills with no phone reception at night and miles from the nearest known dwelling

    5. Traveled by rail behind a steam locomotive

    6. Traveled from Kansas to Kentucky to attend a week long art show held in conjunction with the 2003 Kentucky Derby (tornado outbreak on the way back; that entire trip was an adventure!)

    7. Raised by hand a kitten orphaned the same day it was born. That wasn’t enough; now I’m raising 5 orphan kittens.

    8. Staffed a political campaign office nearly full-time

    9. Unemployed (both hubby and me) for 18 months. That’s why we could staff the campaign office nearly full time!

    That’s my list for now. As you can see, while my adventures haven’t been as deliberate as yours, they have been almost as varied.

    And a lot of them have or will find their way into novels.

    By the way, in the picture of the train, that’s not a traditional box car. It’s actually what’s known in the industry as a container or double-stack train. Those containers came off ships and are on their way from China and other parts of the Orient to markets in the US and Europe.

    The BNSF main line runs through town about three blocks from where I’m sitting right now. A dozen or more pass through every day.

    (Can you tell I’m a railfan?)

    • OOoh, I love all those adventurous things you’ve experienced! What great fodder for novels! And yes, I recently learned the difference between boxcar and shipping container. 🙂

  3. LOL!!! For some reason, on your whole very exciting and daring list it was eating the grilled cattails that stood out to me. Now I need to go take a drink. (empathy + a good imagination = most of my writing detail 😉 )

  4. I do weird stuff too, but so far none as adventurous as that!

  5. Pingback: Book Review: “A Time to Speak” by Nadine Brandes – Janeen Ippolito

I love hearing from you!