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Blog Chain: How I Research

For this blog chain, Kat chose the topic:

How do you do research for your settings, your story and your characters' quirks? What interesting tidbits about yourself and the world you live in have you learned along the way?

Before the Internet, I did research the old-fashioned way: I went to the library.  Yep, there I was at 16 years old, checking out books on medieval weapons so I could learn what the parts of a broadsword were.  (Did you know the groove down the middle, sometimes called  "blood groove," is actually called the "fuller"?  Or that it's not meant to carry blood at all, it makes the sword stronger?)
And gun enthusiast books -- I wanted to learn the differences among calibers and gun manufacturers, how they worked, all of it! Today I'd probably get flagged as a potential school shooter.

I've also collected books I use -- I have EMT books (okay, I covered up the nastiest pictures with Post-Its) so I can figure out just what happens when you shoot someone in the chest and collapse a lung.  I have a couple of great books on poisons.  I have a book on how lawyers, courts, and courtrooms work, and photocopies of what goes on a crash cart at the hospital.

These days I mostly start with Google.  Just over the last two days I've learned what "candy-flipping" is (it's mixing ecstasy with LSD) and what "trail mix" is (it's mixing ecstasy with Viagra).  I've been relying on the internet pretty heavily to help me understand what a candy-flipping trip feels like.  Oh, and for the same scene I needed some dungeon furniture for an S&M club -- you know, ball cages, saltires/X-crosses, suspension bars.  Wait, you didn't know that's what those things were called?  Well, neither did I, but I found out!  (Now I'm just glad nobody uses my laptop but me, because I have a verrrrry interesting browsing history!)

I also love to pick people's brains about their lives and their jobs.  I ask everyone about their jobs, from the Red Cross worker who takes my blood to the bank teller who takes me back to my safe deposit box.  And I pay attention to how things work and ask lots of questions along the way.

Thanks to the fact that I research all kinds of crazy things, I have a lot of interesting tidbits in my head about unrelated things.  But that also helps me understand the world better, and I like that.

As for what I've learned about myself along the way -- well, that I'll ask about anything (and that most people will answer just about anything), and that being really open to really listening will take you a long way. 

Be sure to check out Sandra's answer before me and Kate's after me!

And of course I want to know about you, dear Reader.  How do you research?  What have you learned?

12 Comments:

  1. christinefonseca said...
    Wow - you want to talk fascinating research...And I thought the serial murder stuff was cool! Nice post, Carolyn.
    Michelle McLean said...
    ROFLMBO Holy crap - see! I don't get why people don't like research. You can find the coolest stuff :D I've got the odd assortment of books too. My husband cringes whenever the library announces a book sale :D
    ElanaJ said...
    Very cool methods of research. I especially like the talking to people and paying attention to what's going on around you. I do that all the time. Now, I probably wouldn't go to the library for a book on guns or swords (probably? Who are we kidding here?? *grins*), but still. That's cool. I think it's all about what you're interested in. I spent a whole afternoon delving into the Goth culture one day. So I research, but only things I really care about. Guess I don't care about much. :-D
    Sandra said...
    Sounds like you have a very interesting scene in the works. ;)

    Are people generally willing to answer questions about their jobs? What's your approach?

    P.S. My verification word is psycl. That's appropriate for this blog!
    Carolyn Kaufman said...
    Sandra -- Yes, people usually will answer questions about their jobs. I usually start out with something like, "Is this boring, doing x all day?" or "This must be interesting, doing x every day." And then I ask questions about how things work or what they like most or least about the work they do...
    Kate Karyus Quinn said...
    LOL on your browsing history - I have often thought the same thing as I have typed various phrases into Google. And the S&M pic is too funny, it will be interesting to see what Google searches start drawing other people to your blog now;)
    Annie Louden said...
    Wow, this post makes me want to do research! Usually I feel so overwhelmed by it all, but this sounds fun. I like the idea of collecting interesting books. I'll have to keep my eye out.
    Robin of My Two Blessings said...
    Interesting topics to research. I'm learning how to be more nosy, pay more attention to my surroundings and ask people questions. I've always been the introvert type who minds her own business where ever I go. I'm learning the fine art of eavesdropping. :)
    Rabid Fox said...
    Research really has turned into a thing with me. I've become addicted to documentaries because of it.
    Kat Harris said...
    Books? Internet? Picking people's brains?

    You are my kind of researcher!

    :-)
    Tara Maya said...
    Google is an awesome research tool. I still use books, but I admit, my library is now Amazon.
    laughingwolf said...
    like you, i just cannot get enough information, sometimes unrelated, but essential later, i'm sure

    thx for this...

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