A little background...
I had an idea for a short story set in a prison. Now I've never been to prison (I'm pleased to say) and don't know anyone who has been to prison. In fact, my only 'knowledge' of prison are films or dramas I've seen on TV and I didn't want to rely on them to get my facts straight (particularly as "Prisoner Cell Block H" is probably a little dated! ;o))
BUT...one of my friends is a prison officer. Perfect! I sent her a message on facebook asking if she could spare the time to answer 8 questions I had. I expected her to reply with a couple of brief sentence responses to each question...but she did even better than that...she rang me up and we talked for an HOUR as she answered all my original questions and ones that popped into my head AND provided loads of extra info I didn't need but was really useful. As if that wasn't good enough she also, after I told her my idea for the story, told me how my character might feel, how other prisoners and guards would react to her and what sights and sounds my character would experience. By the end of the conversation I felt thoroughly shaken... not in a bad way... in a good way. My friend had painted such a wonderfully vivid picture of prison that I felt terrified on behalf of my character (and I'd filled 5 sides of A4 with notes - on both sides).
So thank you so, so much prison officer friend. You're lovely.
p.s. Did some editing last night and am now 43% done.