Dec 23, 2009

It's research, I swear.

One of my very favorite things about being a writer is the simple fact that it gives me the excuse to research the most...unusual things. I mean, come on...if someone sees me reading a book on medieval torture devices, I have an out-- "Oh, I'm just researching some of the horrendous methods used during the Spanish Inquisition for a book I'm writing. How utterly barbaric they were back in those days; I'm sure glad we've evolved into a more civilized species."

Or maybe that one time, when my boyfriend got a little too nosy and took a little peek at my browser history? "Oh honey...don't worry, I can explain my interest in demonic possessions, exorcisms, and creepy pagan rituals. I swear its just research for my next book."

I thought it would be fun to do a post on some of the research topics I've used in the past few years. Some of them are somewhat normal, while others...well, they are subjects that only a writer might understand. Actually, maybe this should be a writer only post, because otherwise, someone might try to have me committed to a white-padded-wall institution...

So, like I said before, I'm going to list a few of my most recent, Google-powered searches.

  • YouTube video search of "big cats". Yes, that's right-- Big Cats. My current work in progress has three paranormal night races, demons, vampires, and shapeshifters. I wanted to see video of a lion/leopard/cheetah (you name the kitty) running/pouncing/stalking so I could accurately describe it in my book when my shifters transform into--you got it--Big Cats. And thanks to the BBC and their excellent wildlife footage, I can.
  • Infomercials. Uh huh...infomercials. I was writing a scene and one of the characters started to make the point that someone's idea was as stupid and pointless as __________---and I needed an infomercial to fill in the blank. So I did a quick search; this is the best one by far....

  •  High-end, designer clothing and evening dresses.
  • Gunshot wounds--where to aim to maim, not kill. What can I say, there's a war going on in my books--I want it to be realistic. 
  • Military helicopters. I needed a helicopter in my book and I needed to know which one to use...
  • The weight of the KA-BAR survival knife and the different holsters one can use it with.
  • I received a package in the mail a few months back. Inside, were two books I purchased for research purposes. However, when my family saw what was inside the package...lets just say I had to remind them that I write murder scenes. 
Of course, those books took their positions on my bookshelf next to Dr. DP Lyle's other works, Murder and Mayhem and Forensics and Fiction...

    Of all the things I've looked into, one of the best research topics I read was on Multiple Personality Disorders. The book, Switching Time by Dr. Richard Baer, is the story of a woman, Karen, and her seventeen different personalities. I won't go into the details, but I was truly amazed by this story and the depth of this illness. I was absolutely spellbound by Karen and her alters, all whom had their very own names, personalities, and purposes.

    I'd actually been looking down the psychology aisle at Borders when I came across the book, took a peak inside...and couldn't put it down. I couldn't imagine anyone questioning my choice of reading material...until of course I brought it home and my family looked at me like I'd grown four extra heads. Why in the name of God would I want to read such a thing? The girl had obviously been abused and now suffered from a psychological illness; it was a tragedy, not entertainment, and certainly not research for a paranormal romance!

    And the really sad part was, I could actually see their points. This was a tragedy, and I was a little too enthralled by the whole concept of it.  Of course my family (who happen to think my interest in all things "different" to be...well, different) got me thinking.What kind of a lech am I that I can sit down for four straight hours and read through page after page of trauma and illness and hopelessness? Obviously a very sick kind of lech...

    ...or a writer. Ah ha!

    Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, I have an excuse for my twisted fixation with the weird, the macabre, and the completely random. As writers, we're naturally nosy and intrigued by the strange and unusual. We get ideas from everywhere and from everything. If something strikes our fancy, we want to know more about it, to learn everything we can, and we want to file it away for future use. Well duh, right?

    So--what have you researched lately?

     **Want to buy the t-shirt at the top of this post? The Write Snark


    1. Spices native to Spain--Anise, by the way. And it tastes like licorice.

      Telescopic bleachers for Gymnasiums.

      Flowers with sharp petals.

      ...not quite as fun as yours but a wonderfully hilarious topic for discussion.

    2. Haha! I love looking over my browser history and thinking, "What the hell was I looking at THAT for? Oh yeah...". You've got to love the Internet!

    3. Mine haven't been as fun as your either! I've been doing research for my steampunk - so things Victorian abound - street scenes, food, markets, newspapers, police, court systems, trials...

    4. A lot of the things I write about are inspired by things I learn about in class (I'm a history major - now there's an out if you need one ;)). Things I have researched include corsets, medieval plumbing (or lack thereof), medieval torture devices, Renaissance dances, Victorian hats...

    5. Funny you should mention gunshot wounds. I did a search last week about untreated gunshot wounds because I have a character who is about to bite the bullet (no pun intended) from being shot and he has no access to treatment.

    6. You haven't figured out yet how to delete your browser history, selectively? Dude, you're totally not a guy. That just clinched it for me. :)

      Uh, on a more serious note, I am glad that I read so widely and voraciously. All those books on the occult I read back in high school 'cause I thought it would be cool and edgy? Still stuck in my brain somewhere. Yeah. I'm wierd too.

      It's our world, innit?

    7. Look I'm Commenting!!!
      Ok, so what's my excuse? My browsing history and book list is a little... troubling in some respects. But I love law enforcement, psychology, and where the two meet. I love research for the sake of knowledge (I know I’m a geek).
      I've definitely gotten the "why would you want to read that" and the “why did you Google ____” look, talk, etc.
      Maybe I should pretend to write a book…
      Or just except my ?alternative? interests and fly my freak flag high!

    8. One thing I've been fascinated by lately is case study after case study of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It's for a short story I'm going to write when my manuscript edits are finished.

      I love research. Thanks for sharing some of yours!

    9. Switching Time is an amazing book.

      I definitely LOVE researching for my stories - history was a big one for Shattered (for the far far back story). I loved it! I also did a lot of research on solar energy - and while it was fascinating, I still couldn't try to explain it to anyone, haha

    10. Jemi & Steph, you two seem to have something in common... ;-) I love looking up "olden day" things too. I actually have a race in my book that is, sort of stuck in a time-warp and haven't quite moved up to the twenty-first century.

      Melissa, that sounds like a pretty painful way to die. I hope it turned out great! What a gruesome things we writers do, putting our characters through pain and misery all for the sake of a story. Oh well, they play the parts well. ;), I am not a guy--at least not since the last time I checked. haha! Occult, huh? That can definitely make for some creepy-good stories!

      Kelly! I'm so excited to here from you, Love! I know you always research, research, research and that's one of the reasons you make such a terrific Critique Partner! I can always count on you to help me out--especially since you graduated with a degree in Psychology!

      Ms. Koyanagi, (ah! I'm so bad that I don't know your first name by now) NPD is a very interesting disorder. Research is great, and psyc research is the best!

      Sara, history is an important one for stories. They say that the farther back you look, the further forward you can see. It really makes sense with writers. It helps us to know where our characters would be going without our direction. xoxo

    11. I had to call a friend yesterday to ask how government in colonial America circa 1710 would have been set up... looking online, there's nothing consistent to go by, which is exactly what my friend said. Apparently, every colony did it different.

    12. I was watching something on tv the other day.
      A husband had killed his wife and the police had figured it out by his Google history and reading habits. It was then that I realized my research on knives, poisons, ancient weapons, serial killers, psychopaths, etc. would immediately render me the #1 suspect should anything ever happen to my hubs. YIKES!

    13. Anne- At least you know you can't really mess it up... If everywhere was different, you have a lot of room to create how your colonial govt was and that's just awesome!

      Rhonda- OH I SAW THAT and I think the same thing. Who, other than a writer, would believe us?! What do we learn from this? If your hubby ever dies of mysterious causes, toss your computer into a fast flowing river.

    14. Wow, thank you for following my blog and bumping me up to 100 followers :) Your blog looks great. I love the tshirt, ha ha so perfect. And I'm with you... if my laptop gets seized by any kind of government agency I'm done for.


    Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to leave a comment--I love getting them! But let's face it; who doesn't?