Authors Answer 68 – Authors Research the Strangest Things

Authors appear to be very intelligent, don’t they? Well, a lot of the knowledge they’ve gained for writing is through research. And there are some bizarre topics that they’ve researched. I’m sure you’d be surprised, amused, or horrified if you went through an author’s Google search history. But don’t worry, it’s all for the book!

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 68 – What are some of the most unusual things you’ve researched for your writing?

Allen Tiffany

Whether or not a dual star system can have a planet orbiting one of the stars. There seems to be one line of thinking that it can be done if the planet’s orbit is at a 90 degree angle to the plane on which the two stars orbit each other. I also saw an article that said it was not possible, and tried to explain why with mathematical equations. I gave up trying to understand it, and I went with the first article because it fit my story.  🙂

H. Anthe Davis

Oh I’ve researched LOTS of stuff.  The most interesting to me was eye enucleation, but some recent ones include properties of silk armor, pre-modern heating and cooling, farming techniques, volcanic hazards, photosynthesizing sea-slugs, bee vision, unusual riding animals, fungus crafts, scar mobility exercises, eyeliner tattoos, and alpine survival.  All relevant to the story/world, even the sea-slugs!

Jean Davis

As with most writers, my search history can be quite disturbing depending on what project I’m working on. I’ve can’t think of anything too far out there, but I’ve definitely hunted down a lot of details on dead bodies and everything between the best horse breed to pull a gypsy wagon and various methods of space travel.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Ooh…I have to think about that. I’ve seen some pretty insane research topics pop up during NaNoWriMo, that’s for sure, but those weren’t usually mine. Actually, come to think about it, I don’t do a whole lot of researching because I write more fantastic stuff, the kind of stuff you can mostly just make up from scratch. I did once research how far a human can walk in a single day because I was worried that I was being ridiculous in my estimations of time passing during a long journey. I’ve looked up information on guns because I didn’t want to sound like I had no idea what I was talking about. Ooh…here’s a good one…while I was writing my zombie novel, “Nowhere to Hide”, I took to Google to find out if it was feasible for a 130-ish-lb girl to use a sword to hack right through another human’s neck. That one probably got me on a few government watch lists.

Paul B. Spence

Oh, my. Where to begin…? The fact that it takes longer than anyone wants to think about to explosively decompress? The effects of nuclear radiation on human tissues? Serial killers? Ancient Sanskrit? Penis length of great cats? I mean, who doesn’t want to know that? Right? The list goes on.

S. R. Carrillo

The only one I can think of off the top of my head would be the different kinds of acid and which one is used in pool cleaning. Like most writers, however, I research the wildest of things in pursuit of my craft. I’m sure there are much more heinous things out there I’ve Googled that I simply cannot recall. ^_^

Elizabeth Rhodes

My research into the Black Death turned up some strange things. I specifically looked into plague infections in animals, human superstitions surrounding the plague, and previous attempts to treat it. The topic may not be as strange as some of the others mentioned in this post, but the results sure were.

Linda G. Hill

Hahaha! I often say that if anyone peeked at my search terms on Google, they’d wonder a) what kind of disease I have, b) how am I hiding all those addictions, or c) what kind of psychopath I am. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m on some sort of international watch list for the criminally insane.

Gregory S. Close

I spent an inordinate amount of time determining whether or not some characters were eating pottage or porridge at an inn.  (It ended up being porridge, for those who want to know).

I also really enjoyed researching insults – it’s pretty cool to see how different terms have evolved into insults and to recreate that in my world-building.  The key elements of insults: they are almost always derived out of religion or bodily functions, and often the conjunction of the two!

Eric Wood

Thanks to the inspiration from a fellow blogger, every Friday I do a post where I answer questions my two kids have asked throughout the week.Therefore, I have had to look up everything from baby crows to the coldest temperatures on earth. I’ve looked up what blind people see and earthquakes. It’s great fun!

D. T. Nova

Geographic distribution of eye colors.

Whether or not you can “draw” a weapon or tool that isn’t in a sheath or holdster, or if there was another word for it.

Multiple instances of “I need a name that means X” result in spending a lot of time on baby name websites…and the fact that I’ve also researched pregnancy might give anyone spying on my search history a very wrong idea.

Which reminds me: the effects of certain drugs.

Jay Dee Archer

I’ve had a few interesting searches. For my Ariadne series, I’ve researched wind directions depending on latitude, the effects of an electromagnetic pulse on electronic systems, climate zones, injuries caused by a chisel, mineral hardness, and information about male and female plants. For my future Solar System series, I’ve researched Holst’s The Planets.

Future topics will be the psychological effects of rape, PTSD, government types, urban planning, and genetically modified plants and animals.

How about you?

What are some of the strangest things you’ve researched for writing? I wonder who has the strangest topic. Leave your answer in the comments below.

15 thoughts on “Authors Answer 68 – Authors Research the Strangest Things”

  1. Allen: Have a system sort of like that in some of my/our stories, too. DEFINITELY had to go with a ‘perpendicular’ orbit. (I know there’s a specific term for it, but I can’t recall at the moment.)

    Elizabeth: Fun fact — humans who caught the Black Death and survived ended up with type-O blood (which they passed on to their descendants) because the virus attacks the protein coats specific to A or B type blood, and getting rid of those means there’s nothing for the virus to latch onto. (The reason I remember reading about this actually has nothing to do with my clone and I having type-O ourselves.)

    1. Haha. I wonder how many authors have been under investigation simply because of their research. And then the police suddenly realised, “Damn it. It’s another author!”

  2. I recently wrote a short story about a simple man trying to change a dog into a cat using normal hardware tools in his garage. Urghh!

  3. Seven years ago, I awoke with a bit of dialogue in my head. When I asked the Muse where it had taken place, I was stunned to hear, “Ireland.” What I knew about that could have been written on the back of a small postage stamp. It took three years to fill in my 32,595-square-mile knowledge deficit, after which I knew more about Irish history, geography, wildlife, weather, agriculture, language, music, dance, politics, psychology, religion and whatever you’re having yourself, than I ever imagined knowing—sometimes, more than I wanted to know.

    My work-in-progress takes place from 1906 to 1936, and I’m researching the Irish wars of the period, everything Bavarian, the Battle of the Somme, shell shock, early plastic surgery to repair facial wounds, the death of the Red Baron, and Hitler’s life during the Great War and afterwards. I’ve also spent a morning learning the history of cheese.

    1. Quite remarkable what you can learn just by writing. All that research can result in some impressive knowledge. I hope you enjoyed learning about Ireland.

  4. The trouble is, I don’t always remember WHY I researched a given topic, and sometimes the information is just THERE, absorbed by my brain without any deliberate research-for-a-novel on my part. (I have too much “trivia” in my head. Mind like a steel sieve… It does make me good at fact-checking others’ fiction, though.) Woodworking techniques (thanks to friend Grace for interviewing that creative anachronist about his medieval-style lathe and to friend Theo for talking about modern ones), traditional clothing styles of eastern Europe and Russia (but not folklore — I swear that thing with the names is purely coincidence!), whether or not there really is a Mt. Hawthorne and whether it really is a dormant volcano (okay, that one was mostly just curiosity, except a character from one of my stories would want to know these things, so I researched it on his behalf), a good place to hide a secret mad-scientist lair…

    A fairly recent topic I know I researched for a specific story: the composition of obsidian. Most obsidian is dark brown to black in color due to the presence of magnesium or iron, but on rare occasion it may be nearly colorless. I looked it up because of something Paul had told me about a modern use for obsidian — small detail for backstory in “that novel” — but the normal iron-pigmented stuff wouldn’t have solved the problem it was intended to deal with.

    And I suppose that, technically, watching the movie Armageddon a couple weeks ago was also research. (Believe it or not, for the same story as the research about obsidian.)

    The road trip to Andover, Maine back in 1996 was NOT, at least officially, novel research. (Major character in “that novel” claims to be from near there, and I hadn’t been to Maine for a few years… Got to visit Robert Frost’s old farm in Franconia, New Hampshire, too, and took photos of the old, un-mended wall…) The road trip to Anglin, Kentucky in 2012 (?) was research, however. My clone had never been to Anglin, and it’s an important location in some of the stuff we’re writing together.

    1. Interesting you mentioned obsidian. When I was in university, I took some geology, and we were studying cleavage, I believe. We examined several minerals and rocks and we had to study whether they would cleave or not. I only remember that obsidian is sharp.

  5. Reblogged this on On the Edge of Enlightenment and commented:
    Honestly, if I just look something up quick because I only need to check a single fact, I might not even remember it every time this kind of topic comes up. More things I’ve researched include Area 51, railguns, tarot, a lot of mythology, Romeo and Juliet laws, volcanoes, the Knights Templar, the lyrics of a Vocaloid song, intersex conditions, and hairstyles.

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