Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In the Name of Writing Research

I often worry that the authorities will someday look at my browsing history and decide I'm a menace to society.




I imagine them breaking down my door, confiscating my computer, and leading me away in handcuffs as my neighbors gawk and gossip.


My defense, I've already decided, sounds a bit flimsy. "I was doing research for a book."


When I was writing THE FIRST VICTIM I researched serial killers and pistachio muffins. (Yes, some research is incredibly difficult, but there comes a time when you just have to bite the bullet...or in this case the muffin.)


I also asked too many questions of a former FBI agent and a forensic psychologist.



For CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN I spent a lot of time researching guns and prison visits.


I also spent endless hours reading up on the diets of lizards....don't ask.


Right now I'm working on a book that has had me searching out information on meth labs (did you know people now "cook" it in cars???)


and how to remove blood and other bodily fluids.


Now, I'll tell you my dirty little secret. This research, this suspicious activity that could land me in jail or worse, I don't enjoy doing it. BUT...you knew that was coming, right? BUT research is a necessary evil. Understanding how things work, gettign all those little details right, are what sells a story. The reader needs those details to believe in the world the author is creating.

I sometimes wonder if less dry research would be more enjoyable. The FBI's Citizen's Academy looks like fun, as does a police ride-along, or maybe I should just take myself to the nearest firing range and pop off a couple rounds.



If you're a reader, do you appreciate it when an author gets the little details right? If you're a writer, what's the strangest thing you've looked up/done in the name of research?

18 comments:

MaureenAMiller said...

I had to do a lot of research on pigs once. That was fun. There is a lot to know about pigs.

But it is scary. I once typed an email to a friend who had Fibromyalgia, and before I even hit SEND, Google ads came up in the side bar for Fibromyalgia.

Shirley Wells said...

I spend far too much time researching weapons and - worse - how bodies look after being hanged, drowned or burnt. I sometimes think I should take up knitting.

I may make the heroine in my next book an expert on handmade chocolate...

JB Lynn said...

Maureen -- The google ads freak me out on a regular basis.

Shirley -- You're my kind of gal!

Rita said...

It is such a comfort being among other crazy researchers. LOL!
I was stunned to learn what weapons could be purchased over the internet. Like rocket launchers!! At first I was terrified the men in black would be knocking at my door. I found it very disturbing to get email for a site I’d visited for research. I do hours of research for a few lines on the page. I use a lot of technology and use as little detail as possible. I think the more detail the bigger chance of an error. I don’t appreciate being hit over the head with details when I read and I treat my readers the same way.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I spent a lot of time researching those huge tunnel digging machines (like the one that they used for the Chunnel). That was kinda cool. And the research of volcanoes, calderas, etc. was interesting. But the thing that probably put me on the CIA's watchlist was the in-depth research on DC - layouts of buildings, maps of the city, what congress looks like from the inside. It was for a book. Really it was.

Toni Anderson said...

I freaked out my brother and another friend who works for the MOD by grilling them about dirty bombs. They wouldn't say much. I find the people who really know this stuff can be pretty tight-lipped even when you've got blackmail material LOL. How are writers supposed to be credible if we can get the facts?

JB Lynn said...

Rita -- Excellent point about details. I wonder if I should add "rocket launcher" to my Amazon Wish List....

B.E. -- Sounds like a fascinating set of research topics. Now I must research what the "chunnel" is.

Toni -- What's the MOD?

Toni Anderson said...

Ministry of Defense.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Research. The bane of my existence. I don't really like it, though it's a necessary evil. I think it's because I'm no good at it. My best research comes when I can actually talk to someone who knows the subject matter. I did get a ride-along with an RCMP officer for one of my books and that was priceless (and incredibly generous).

And Shirley? I knit constantly. Only, I cackle when I do...

Jennifer Colgan said...

I've done research on how one addresses English nobility and I spent a lot of time creating a flight itinerary for my characters. Since I mostly write sci-fi and paranormal, a lot of my research is really just me making things up that I then have to keep track of.

Rita said...

"rocket launcher" to my Amazon Wish List....
SNORT!

Doris J said...

As a reader, I really enjoying knowing the author has done their homework, and what they are telling me is truth!

I volunteer in Law Enforceable ( not as a cop) have been on ride alongs, I am the president of an Alumni of Citizen Academy graduates, been tazed, job shadowed in a jail, and role play for tactical training.I'm not an expert but know a bit more than the average citizen. So it really make a huge difference in my reading ( and tv/movie watching) when the research has been done and it feels real.
That also goes for none police facts :-)

Toni Anderson said...

Doris--you are a woman of hidden depths!

Doris J said...

Toni, You have NO idea! LOL you think your brain is a scary place to live :-) LOL

JB Lynn said...

Marcelle -- I have someone who keeps offering to set me up with a ride-along with a homicide detective. I haven't done it yet because I fear truth is more boring than fiction.

Jennifer -- no doubt I'd flunk English nobility protocol

Rita -- What? There aren't some days when you think a rocket launcher would be just the thing to have in the dining room???

Doris -- Oooh, next time I need to know what it feels like to be tazed I know how to ask.


Hmmmm, I'm wondering if my word verification is making a statement about me. It's "dipshi"

Doris J said...

Any Time!

To be honest the ONLY reason I did it is I'm the mom of all boys. One of my boys got tazed while helping in the Citizens Academy Use of Force class. Well I had to prove mom was as strong as her boy when she took the class! LOL

Jennifer Hillier said...

As I writer, I hate research, but as a reader, I totally appreciate a well-researched novel that nails the details. So I agree, research is a necessary evil!

Wendy Soliman said...

Totally astonished that your computer hasn't been tagged by the FBI for suspicious activities. Don't worry, though. We'll have a whip round and bail you out!