So, my novel, Surviving Immortality, is essentially about what happens when the people of Montreal stop dying. When thinking up how people would react to their newfound immortality, I realized that some adrenaline junkies, untethered from the risk of death, might decide to push the bounds of extremism to new, ridiculous heights.
Which might include biking down Montreal’s Olympic Tower. Why not?
Now, I was living in Ottawa at the time and online research only got me so far, so I wrote the scene and resolved to take a weekend trip to Montreal for proper research. As I initially wrote it, our band of thrill seekers take bikes to the top of the tower, which is slanted at a forty-five degree angle, and cycle down, a few of them falling, the rest crashing at the tower’s base, but all of them surviving because immortality.
Let’s just say that research is so very important, even when writing about indestructible dumbasses riding down the spine of a 540 foot tower. You see, the tower, officially called Montréal Tower, is the tallest inclined tower in the world, and—quite importantly in the context of the scene I was writing—it includes a funicular.
For those who don’t know, a funicular is like an elevator that rides along a track rather than being pulled up and down by cables. The Montréal Tower’s funicular rides up and down—you guessed it—its spine.
So I rode the funicular and quickly saw that the track along which the car rides is deep and wide, taking up most of the tower’s surface and leaving only a couple feet on either side.
There was no way a bunch of idiots on bikes could make it all the way, or even half-way down the tower. I had to rethink the scene entirely. Luckily, the scene was meant to be funny and, in my opinion, having the thrill seekers wipeout within moments of beginning their descent as far funnier than having them complete or almost complete their attempts.
Anyway, just goes to show that, even when writing a funny, absurd or surreal scene, if it is set in or at a real place, visiting that location is essential.
Also, don’t try to bike down Montreal’s Olympic Tower. It won’t work. The funicular ride is pretty nice, though.