Writing Wednesday: IWSG Nov 2019

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For this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I’m keeping my post short and simply answering the question posed on the IWSG site. Part of the reason for this is that I’ve got a novel draft to write, but I also have an interesting answer to the question.

Here is the question posed for today’s IWSG post:
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever googled in researching a story?

In my early writing days, I looked up how long it takes for a dead body to start to smell. I thought that was pretty strange at the time. I’ll bet it’s actually fairly run-of-the-mill though.

I topped it in 2015, when working on prep for my NaNoNovel that year. For the climax of the story I was outlining, I looked up what red-hot metal would do if stabbed into a body. It was a difficult topic to research, but led me down some really interesting rabbit trails that were not necessarily helpful for my novel (like common Hollywood misconceptions about how blades are made).

Nowadays, most of my research involves getting an accurate idea of weather during a certain time of year in areas that my books are set in or near, or distance between certain locations (like Alaska and Maine). Not nearly as interesting, but necessary to make sure my novels have a real feel to them.

So what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for a story?

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13 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: IWSG Nov 2019

  1. I could say some of the strange murder-y things I’ve had to look up, but I think the most interesting and mind-numbing thing I’ve ever researched is the history of and building of different types of Victorian houses. I didn’t even use any of the information I learned as description in the end, but all the information helped me structure a picture in my own head and create the atmosphere without needing to put in specific details. The plus side is that after a good week and a half of learning, I was confident I could not only build one, but also identify the different structures of Victorian’s around the town I live. And indeed, whenever I ride my bike past one, I say something along the lines of “oh, there’s an American Foursquare”.

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    • I’ve been there! I learned so much about the city I used to work in for a work project, when we drive through downtown now, I point out things to my husband that he just doesn’t care about.

      I once tried to research what a common floor plan would be for a large resort. I had to give up on that, because I just couldn’t find more than surface information. Maybe I’m just not tenacious enough…

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  2. I have to say, what you googled would give ‘pause’. On the other had I have a book somewhere around the house somewhere on ways to murder people…written for writers. I need to find that. Just saying. 🙂

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    • After reading some of the other IWSG posts today, I realize that it seems to be common for people to be concerned about what they google in research for a story. I don’t think I’ve ever thought that much about it before. I may have, in passing, chuckled to myself about what someone would think if they saw my search history, but never worried about getting into trouble because of it. I wonder how murder-mystery authors do it these days.

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  3. I’ve done plenty of “how to poison/maim/decapitate” types searches. Also, “what happens to a body when . . .” There’s enough of us that I think those kinds of searches are pretty run-of-the-mill. Seriously, I think bomb making and sabotage searches are more likely to draw the attention of the authorities today.

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    • That’s probably exactly why it’s never bothered me to research things like that. But yes, it would probably give me pause to research how to make a bomb. Or how to blow up an airplane. To be honest, even typing that into my comment makes me feel weird.

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  4. I’m also about the arcane details – I hate it when I read something in a book and know it’s wrong. It just throws me off and I cannot enjoy the book thereafter. In some cases, it is a small and odd detail than I just happen to know – like an unusual aspect of a train timetable, or the methods of travel between the Scottish mainland and a specific island – so I try to forgive them not having researched that particular aspect. In other cases, it’s stuff which is well-known and makes me think they’ve done absolutely zero research. I soooo don’t want to be one of those writers.

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    • My dad is a blacksmith, so I get a little nitpicky when reading books with scenes that have anyone forging in them.
      On the other side of it though, I read a book recently where the author threw in such minute details about a city, that it just felt too forced. I think it wasn’t the details, though, but how often she threw them in. Like specific restaurant names, and even what the characters were planning to order from those restaurant. I’m pretty sure she looked up menus of real restaurants in that city online, and I applaud her attempt at authenticity…until it started to feel like she was trying too hard.

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    • I was actually trying to find information about using something like a poker, when just coming out of a forge (the main setting was a blacksmith’s tent at a reenactment). I figured there’d be some cauterization involved, but wanted to get an idea about how much damage there would be, how fatal it would be (compared to a cool pointed object), etc. In the end, the story was a dud anyway.

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  5. I posted about similar experiences – you can’t seem to help that odd “someone looking over your shoulder” feeling when engaging in such research! But from reading the posts, it does seem to be common enough that we’re probably all flying under the radar.

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    • It’s never really been an issue for me before, but after this month’s IWSG discussion, I will probably think about it every time I research something related to murder or other illegal things! 😀

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