Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FOR SCIENCE! Or novel research... whichever.

Today's Road Trip Wednesday question on YA Highway is:
"What is the strangest/weirdest thing you've ever researched?"

It's been a long time since I was in a research phase of my novel(s). I did it long enough to sort of get an idea of where I was headed and to build up a lot of bookmarks on Delicious, and then I set to writing, promising myself I'd return to refine details later.

I researched setting to decide where I wanted to place my story. I researched name origins, making sure that characters had regionally and historically appropriate and meaningful names.  But all that stuff is pretty commonplace and I'd assume even the laziest of authors have probably done at least that much for their stories. But there were some moments I remember thinking, "if someone took a snapshot of my open browser tabs right now, they'd probably think I was crazy or deranged."

The most notable topic that comes to mind is the research I began on Druidism. I was looking for any rituals that could be construed to be human or animal sacrifice. I was looking for anything, from the offering of blood to cannibalism to consumption of raw animal meat that I could bend to the mythology I was creating in order to give it something in reality with which to be grounded.  This is what happens when you write about Druid vampires.

But I suppose even that isn't too far of a stretch. I think what really made me sit back and giggle at my craziness was the shear breadth of topics I had in a multitude of simultaneous browser tabs. Ship records from the 1680s, the Wikipedia page on the Edict of Fontainebleau, a list of Celtic kings from the fourth century, Google maps satellite images of the highways around Denver to see if they had center dividers or medians, a list of French words with meanings that could be construed as macabre, a list of Catholic saints and their patronages looking for one relating to exorcism (it's Saint Francis Borgia, in case you wanted to know and his attribute is a skull with a crown, which serves my purpose perfectly), the list goes on and on.

Seriously, online research can get so manic in the way you can impulsively jump from one topic to the next with the ease of simply opening a new tab and spitting out a phrase into a search field. At some point, you just have to sit back and laugh at yourself with how far down the rabbit hole you've fallen as the information before you gets so unmanageable and more than you could possibly process in the time it had taken you to reach it all. I'm only just starting to expand my research past online sources and I could imagine myself hunched over stacks of dusty library books and printed off pages from reference journals. At some point, I'd stand to get a cup of coffee to come back and see the scene with fresh eyes, realizing I've duplicated the insanity of my online searches in print media.

But I get that way. Nothing fuels me more than a quest for information. And if standing behind that natural inquisitiveness is a strong desire to get what I need out of the research so I can get back to constructing my story, my will is like a runaway freight train. Nothing can deter me and it's likely I won't eat or sleep or go to the bathroom until I'm satisfied with what I've found.


  1. I'm the same way! I'll start researching something and it leads to another thing that's related and interesting. But I usually end up using the new info in some way, so it's worth it!

  2. The rabbit hole is so enticing! Druid vampires sounds really interesting, btw.

  3. Tracey: Indeed! It's pretty easy to tell early on if you're on a worthless wild goose chase. I don't think I've regretted any research thus far.

    Kate: So very enticing, I love it! And thanks, I hope they come across as interesting in the book(s) as well. ;)