Research. Research. Research.
It's no secret how much of it I do. But sometimes there are things you can't find out by research alone. For example: Moriah, the MC in CALLARION AT NIGHT, has fairly substantial anger issues based off her mom disappearing and being "betrayed" by her ex-fiance. If I were doing research on my own, I could probably find several perfectly serviceable psychological disorders to give her as a result of said issues.
There's no guarantee, however, that I'd be able to effectively incorporate those disorders into the story. I have no training at all in psychology, and would probably get quite a bit wrong if I tried to replicate those disorders on my own.
Which is where my friendships with Michelle* and Alice come into play. Both of these ladies have extensive experience with psychological issues -- Michelle majored in psychology in college and Alice works in the field -- and both have graciously agreed to read what I have of the MS so far. My stated intention upon handing the 17 chapters to them was to find where the psychology doesn't make sense and to mark the text up so it does.
It's friendships like those, where you have access to a knowledge base more complete than anything easily found on the Internet, that make the research process go by so much smoother. Why would I bother researching PTSD when I can ask Michelle questions and she immediately comes back with a more detailed (and useful) answer than what I can possibly find?
My friends have experience with computers, law, cars, music, medicine, history (ancient and modern), politics, money, and a host of other topic areas. It's easier to call Mark, my best friend, for a quick computer question than to spend two hours searching. He gives me answers inside of five minutes. Who can beat that?
Therefore, to end this admittedly disjointed post, I propose that fostering these interesting (and diverse) friendships can enhance our abilities to write effective stories. Ones that our friends will enjoy seeing, knowing that they've helped us get there.
At least that's the plan.
* The names have been changed to protect ... well, none of the people mentioned are innocent, per se (they are friends with me after all) ... so probably because I'm not sure how comfortable they'd be with being named online in a public blog post.