Tag Archives: searching

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.

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Should You Write What You Know?

Writers are often told to “write what you know.” If you have knowledge about a subject, then write about it. Experts write about their field of expertise, so if you happen to be a great collector of bottle caps, then write a book about it. But when it comes to fiction, this becomes a bit of an issue.

Let’s assume I will write what I know. In university, I majored in physics and astronomy, which includes fields such as relativity, quantum mechanics, fluid dynamics, radio astronomy, electronics, radiation, lasers, optics, planetary science, thermodynamics, cosmology, and all the really basic physics from Newton, Copernicus, and Galileo. I did not study string theory, as it was still very much in its infancy when I was in university. I also took courses in chemistry, geology, atmospheric sciences, and programming. So, through these, I know how reactions work, how to make batteries, how to make rudimentary explosives, what causes weather phenomena, how volcanoes work, what happens during an earthquake, how plate tectonics happens, the fossil record, and how to make a paint program (although I’ve completely forgotten). I have also taken online courses where I learned things like plant communication and archaeology. I have used many of these when working on Ariadne, as well as worldbuilding.

For Ariadne, I have used geology, numerous aspects of astronomy, atmospheric sciences, and the knowledge I have about evolution and biology through high school, one of my geology courses, and my own personal interest. For the future series about the dying man whose final wish is to explore the solar system, I use my knowledge of the planets, as well as physics involved in spacecraft propulsion, orbital mechanics, and so on. So yes, I am writing what I know.

But you see, that’s not enough. There are many gaps in my knowledge that I need to fill to make my stories more believable and realistic. For Ariadne, I need to research more about spacecraft propulsion systems (though I have a good idea about these anyway), DNA (especially mutations and recessive/dominant genes), urban planning and land use, and religion. To do these, I read a lot. I’ll read books when I can, I’ll search on the internet for scientific papers, and I’ll even use Wikipedia.

Reading books is great. I love doing it. If there are books about DNA, I think they’ll help me with my research on hereditary traits, recessive and dominant genes, and so on. The library is great for this. You don’t have to read the entire book, just the relevant parts. Encyclopedias are good, too.

Searching on the internet for scientific papers is very useful. I only go through official channels for these, so I’m not seeing opinions of the scientifically illiterate. I’m going straight to the legitimate source, the actual scientists that did the research. This can take some time, unfortunately, due to the nature of many papers. They can be utterly dull to search through to find what you want to know. But it has to be done.

However, Wikipedia is often a quick way to do this. I know many people say that Wikipedia is a poor source, but it is actually a very, very good source. The information on it isn’t made up. It’s taken from official sources, verified, double-checked, and scrutinized closely. Everything must be referenced. There must be legitimate sources. Don’t believe Wikipedia? Then follow the references to the original publications. You’ll get your information there.

Writing fiction isn’t all about what you know. You need to expand your horizons. Write about what you don’t know. Learn about it. You’ll become a better writer, and be able to cover many more situations in a believable manner.

What’s your opinion? Do you think we should just write what we know? Or should we research extensively to improve our knowledge and write about many different things? Let me know in the comments below.