Working on Get Back Jack this morning, the second novel in my Hunt for Jack Reacher series, the question was how fast an elevator travels from the ground to the 22d floor of a high rise office building in Washington DC. Anybody want to guess?
Lee Child has famously claimed that he does no research when writing 18 Jack Reacher thrillers. Joe Finder disagreed with Lee about that claim a while back. If you missed it, you can read the friendly jousting for yourself. Click Here.
Maybe Lee writes without much research because he has a phenomenal memory for factoids and figures and other manly things. He need never go back, right? Me? I’m like Joe. I need to look things up.
When I was writing Don’t Know Jack, I spent more than an hour researching the distance from an airport jetway to the ground for a scene in chapter fifteen where Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar jump across the five-foot void and risk falling. If they didn’t make it, could they have died? Maybe.
Kim’s fear of flying is cemented by the reality that she knows too much about the risks of flying. This sends me to real plane crash investigation reports and black box transcripts where investigators determine why real airplanes sometimes fall from the sky.
The answers to these questions are never as simple as they should be.
So, how fast does an elevator travels from the ground to the 22d floor of a high rise office building in Washington DC?
Turns out, the speed of elevators varies based on a complicated series of factors. The type of elevator, its age, the age of the building are all important. The elevator is slower coming off the ground than going up once it’s lifted from ground level. And so on. Who knew?
So how long does the elevator ride from the lobby to Dave O’Donnell’s office in a Washington DC office building last? After all that, I simply had to make an educated guess and finesse it a bit.
Here’s what I learned.
Because the elevator one rides almost to the top of the Empire State Building, travels the first 80 floors in 45 seconds, I settled on “less than 30 seconds” for Otto & Gaspar’s 22 floor elevator ride.
Am I wrong? Anybody know?
As always, thank you for reading!
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I’ve been in some super slow elevators and some warp speed ones, too. Wow, you really do a lot of research! I don’t think I would have thought to research that. Glad you’re working to a sequel to Don’t Know Jack!
Lynn, my readers are particular about facts like this. When I get one wrong, they let me know about it! So I try to be as accurate as I can. Like you, I’ve been in all sorts of elevators. The slow ones are soooooo annoying, aren’t they?
Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!
Oh, I rode the elevator in the Empire State Building (years ago). Cool detail. Finding things out like that is one of the many reasons I love to write AND to read. 🙂
The view from the observation deck is gorgeous, isn’t it. Lynette? Thanks for the comment!
Writing historical fiction, I’m forever having to check whether a town was in existence at a certain time, whether or not it bore the same name as today, what kind of conveyances people used and 1001 other things. Can’t imagine Lee’s being able to write with no research at all.
Exactly, David. That was the subject of friendly jousting between Lee and Joe that I linked in the post. Joe said Lee is perpetually researching as he goes about his life. Lee has an amazing memory and is able to recall obscure things easily. I, on the other hand, remember vaguely that I’ve read or seen something somewhere, but can’t recall with precision what it was or where I saw it — and must look it up again.
Thanks for reading and appreciate the comment!
Hi Diane! Popped over from Susie’s blog today. What a fascinating argument! I just read an article by Lee Child in Writer’s Digest magazine. He no doubt comes from the right background where little research may be required. I’m a fan of Candace Havens’ approach where she inserts brackets [insert research about jungle here] and then goes back to include details about sights, sounds, etc. when she’s editing. Hearing about that was an aha moment for me when writing a first draft.
I have no idea and I hope I never find out the hard way! We used to live on the 37th floor and it was never fun to walk the stairs.
Thanks for bringing the link to the party!