May’s prompt comes from Lily Jenness:
“What are some of the coolest/weirdest/funniest/most disturbing things you’ve researched for a story?”
Confession time here: I do not write many stories. Sometimes that makes me feel like less of a writer because everyone else is talking about the seven-hundred-page high fantasy book they just drafted, and I’m sitting awkwardly in the corner thinking, “ESSAYS! WHEE!” My fiction is almost entirely short stories so even then there isn’t a main topic I research, because my stories aren’t all about the same things or even in the same genre.
This past summer I did a number of Internet searches on the British Museum, which isn’t weird unless you know what I was going to do with the information. I looked at floor maps and online galleries, trying to decide the best location for an explosion. I was planning to have a villain bomb the Museum so I needed to know about important sites within it that a villain might want to destroy or little-visited exhibit halls he could use to sneak from place to place. I swear I’m not a psycho – I just have a vivid imagination. We writers may seem scary what with terms like “poison”, “car accidents”, and “what body parts will bleed a lot when stabbed” in our search histories but in reality we’re pathetic dorks who have only paperclips available to defend ourselves with.
The coolest things I’ve researched would probably have to be dinosaurs. This was for the same project as the British Museum stuff. My characters traveled back in time, so I used books and the Internet to determine the size and ferocity of various beasties. It was fun because dinosaurs are amazing to imagine – they’re huge! It’s scary enough to realize that some were the height of a grown man or weighed as much as a car, but then you find out that those were the small ones.
I also have fun doing Internet searches for censuses because some of my stories take place in the past. County censuses include names so I got a sense of which ones were popular at a given time. Actually, I’ve used this much more for what I refer to as my “old lady stories”. These are usually based on wacky stories my grandma tells me. The characters are elderly people who do anything from saving the day to being very confused about computers, and they’re usually funny. I set them in the present day so I find names that were popular around seventy or eighty years ago.
Lately I’ve been researching fairy tales, particularly “The Little Mermaid”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and “Cinderella”. I know I want to write a retelling of at least one of them if not more. Online, I’ve been looking at how the tales developed or how vastly different cultures each have a version of the same story. But research shouldn’t be limited to the computer so I’ve been reading retellings of fairy tales too, to decide where/when to set my story and who my main character should be.
What do you research? More importantly, would it scare other people?
Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:
19th – http://www.mandilynn.com/
30th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)