Research: It Can Be Fun If You Know Where To Look

As a writer, we are constantly told to "write what we know". I have a habit of tossing out such advices because if I were to write ONLY what I KNOW, then in the grand scheme of the universe (which is very GRAND indeed), the extent of my knowledge would be smaller than a quark.

And what the heck is Google for anyway?

So. RESEARCH. A writer's semi-bestfriend. Or maybe it's our frenemy, I'm not sure. Anyway, here we are, flushed from the adrenaline of a new sparkling and uber-shiny IDEA, and we let our thumbs and fingers fly on the keyboard...tap, tap, tap. We're practically bouncing off our seats--this is going to be the best book ever! Eat your heart out, JK Rowling--when suddenly. SUDDENLY. We realize we have NO idea how to kill off a manticore-dragon hybrid. Okay, maybe no one does except JK Rowling if we let her.

Let's try that again. So, you're writing, writing, then WHACK! The next scene calls for medical expertise, and though you were very handy with the scalpel and the dead frog in high school, you have no idea what your teenage vampire-werewolf hybrid/superhero should do when his human girlfriend suffers from a heat stroke in the middle of the desert because she tried to follow him even when he said to stay away from him since he's mega-dangerous during the new moon. But oh, she just couldn't. Teen angst and all that jazz, ya know.

So you lug down your dusty medical encyclopedia your mom bought for you as a hint, er, gift back when you were still trying to decide what to do with your life (college applications spread out on table next to you). And the adrenaline plummets down. Next thing you know, you are staring at the white screen, and oh, ice cream sounds really good right now.... Click Save, turn power OFF. Goodbye.

Hey, don't go. I'm not done here. Research may get a bad rep because it stops us cold from our euphoric writing high, but it can be fun too. Medical mumbo-jumbo twisting your brain in knots? Check out Lydia Kang's blog The Word Is My Oyster. This chick is a bona fide doctor and an excellent writer. You can even ask her your own medical questions and she will answer them! Yeah, 'cause she's cool like that.

Writing a psychological thriller? Sarah Fine is a practicing child psychologist and talented writer who blogs at The Strangest Situation.  And she's also super awesome because you can ask her your own questions too!

Want to find out about animal behavior? Lisa Ann is your girl--she's a writer, an animal trainer, a zookeeper, an environmental educator. She blogs at Kicked, Cornered, Bitten and Chased. Man, I have the coolest friends. ;)

I've said this before (I think) that GOOGLE is my BFF. When in doubt, Google it. Or else you will find yourself at the end of a reader's rant like this one about faulty research. And yes, Michelle Simkins is called Greenwoman for a reason. She knows her herbs and her plants, so if you're venturing into botanical fields in your ms, go check her blog out!

Here are some other golden finds:

Cosmic Log by MSNBC.com Science Editor Alan Boyle. This one is a mishmash of anything cosmic--from science to space and society. Even Mars and dinosaurs. What I like about this blog is that you see all these articles and they can spark your writerly imagination (New species of sea slugs found? Whoa, that's a story right there. Kraken hybrid, anyone?).

Cocktail Party Physics. Yeah, the blog name alone delivers, doesn't it?

Symmetry Breaking. More on Physics but a whole lot serious than the one above. So this is for you nerds out there. I'm not nerdy enough for this blog. (Plus, I hated Physics in high school. Gahhh!)

Mythical Realm for all things mythical such as magical creatures and legends. Yes, this one's a handy resource for Fantasy writers.

Monstrous.com for the not-so-pretty side of Fantasy.

Sacred Texts An archive of religion, mythology, folklore, and the esoteric.

Going prehistoric? DinoDictionary.com

Ghosts, Aliens, and UFOs. Visit Unknown Explorers.

Is there a site or a blog that you go to in times of writerly needs? Please share with us! We'd love to get educated.


Riley Redgate said...

Cherie, you have the most brilliant and useful posts. This is going right on my favorites list.

(Re: medical mumbo-jumbo? GAH! WebMD has put me through so much pain and suffering. Give me something less sketchy, Google!)

Miranda Hardy said...

Great post. I love research. It's the best part of writing. I'll spend countless hours in the library.

Angela V. Cook said...

I hate research; it tends to stagnate the creative process for me. I purposely try to choose projects that don't require a whole lot of research.

This is a great post though, because it's almost impossible to avoid research all together. It's nice to have a list of sites that can make the process a little bit more entertaining ;o)

Jen said...

I loved the line about teenage angst and all that, lol!

I agree with Angela, although it is sometimes necessary. For instance my book has horses in it and I know next to nothing about a horses limitation etc. In comes the research, hate it, but it must be done.

Caitlin Vincent said...

I l.o.v.e. the research aspect of writing. the more you know about your subject, the more you have to play with in your plot. And the more you have to play with, the more interesting you can make your story.

(Not to mention that research is 100% essential for historical fiction, which is what I write at the moment).

Thanks for taking the time to put together all these links for us! You're a peach :)

Jacquelyn said...

Thanks for sharing these! One of my Twitter peeps also shared this link a little while ago:
Encyclopedia Mythica, a mythology and folklore resource, which is handy for fantasy.

Bethany C. said...

Friend, this is awesome!! I am Googling stuff all the time--how did writer's write before the internet? Like I'm supposed to know how to cut the brake lines on an Escalade?! pffh...

Anonymous said...

Oh my goddess. I could KISS you for this. Especially the doctor one. You rock. Srsly.

Linny said...

I actually think it's the people who DON'T write that say "write what you know". Could be that they lack imagination, so best ignore them.

Thanks for the site pointers Cherie.
And Google is a great friend. :-)

As for sites I find useful, When I need to find out more about a name for a character, I would use http://www.namepedia.org - Super handy!

Scott Niven said...

What a great list of useful places to find answers to questions. I especially liked the Cosmic Log. Thanks for posting!

Siv Maria said...

Thanks for the great links! Research is a pain but necessary so places of information is very handy. Imagine when everything you needed meant going to the library. We are so lucky today with internet.

Christine Tyler said...

You've won an award at my blog!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Great post Cherie! Google is indeed our friend. The WIP involves a walking trek from the Midwest to CA... and I was able to plot the route, and plop myself visually down right in the middle of it, if I needed a better idea of what my characters would be looking at.

Can you imagine doing research before the internet?


Krista M said...

I agree that Google in our frenemy! I can't always right what I know. I do a little research and expand my knowledge to then write. One of my novels has a scene with appendicitis and I've never had that. I had to research to help me. We write what we write because our imaginations can take us anywhere!

M Pax said...

What a great list and method to find knowledgable and passionate folks on any needed topic.

cherie said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by and leaving me your lovely comments! I'm glad this post was helpful. :)

Also, special thanks to Jacquelyn and Linny for alerting us to two more fab resources. ;D

Have a great weekend, everyone! <3 <3

The Words Crafter said...

wow, you put a lot of helpful links in here! i already follow Lydia, but i'm going to have to check out the others.

thanks for stopping by! the kiddos are in my class and we're hoping to hear good news by monday....

Tanya Reimer said...

Nice links. I never research until about draft 3. I just make myself notes, bold face marks that read like this- FIND OUT HOW TO KILL OFF AN IMMORTAL- and keep going like a mad woman. Then I come back and go, "what the heck? Who the heck is going to know that? Even google can't help me with that. You can't kill an immortal... can you? Can you?"

You can now. I became my own expert. hehe.

Thanks for all these links, I'll fav you, and link to your post in my next research post. Great stuff.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Wow,what a super informative post! And I never thought of using our pals as encyclopedias. Stupendous idea! Thanks for always giving me ways to make my life easier. I love that about you, sparkly girl. :)

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