Sometimes when researching for a novel or short story, little things like the life cycle of a certain type of plant becomes important. Where and under what conditions does the plant thrive? When does it flower and what is its root structure like?
Such information can be found on the internet, or at the local library, but usually folks in the field are the best source. It is much easier to ask an expert 'what if' questions and get answers as compared to struggling with what can be found in a textbook or on a website. Plus, one question's answer can lead to other and another--and with the expert on hand, the answers are right there.
For a fantasy short story I've been plotting out, I needed some sort of flowering plant to play a part. I recalled a co-worker (Julie Roeth) who raises daylilies on her farm. I knew a small amount about daylilies, and felt they may be just what I needed.
So a few initial questions resulted in an invitation to visit and see the daylilies in bloom. Happily it turned out to be a visit where my daughters got some hands-on experience and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon spent with my co-worker. (She knows who she is and I can't thank her enough)
People enjoy sharing their knowledge and insights, especially if asked. And the expert doesn't have to be a family member, friend, or co-worker. Have an insect question? There might be an entomologist at the local university who would know the answer, or could direct you to someone who does. What better way to insure depth and accuracy in one's stories?
Needless to say, common courtesy rules apply, especially in accommodating the expert's schedule.
Maybe I'll manage to finish that story in which the daylilies play a small part. And if it gets published, I'll let the readers here (and the expert in person) know.