One of the aspects of writing that I truly enjoy is the research. I really do like getting my facts straight. Looking at it from a positive side, if I toss out an interesting and intriguing tidbit, it might prompt a reader to do some research as well, and learn something in the process. Looking at it from the paranoid side, I maintain this lingering fear that if I blatantly fabricate something--even if it's a really obscure factoid--someone, somewhere will say, "That's not how it works!"
That's one of the reasons that I admire Dan Brown. Whether or not you like his novels, you have to appreciate the amount of research that went into in Da Vinci Code and more so into Angels & Demons. When reading the latter, I pictured the author walking the streets of Rome, head down, looking for obscure, ancient markings in the sidewalk. It's staggering, if you really stop to analyze it.
Likewise, in one of the short stories of my book-in-progress No Strings Attached, the main character has a skydiving equipment malfunction. (I don't think I'm giving anything away; it's revealed on page 2 or so.) So I did a little basic research:
- At what altitude does a skydiver jump from a plane?
- How far and for how long does one fall before pulling the rip cord?
- If the parachute fails, how long does it take to hit ground?
Not exactly in the same ballpark as Mr. Brown's work. But you get the idea.
And sometimes, I learn something...interesting.
In a previous post, I wrote about a short story that I just completed, "Never Mind The Nonsense, Here’s The Sex Truncheons." The name, of course, is a play on the Sex Pistols. I wanted to come up with a weapon that was appropriate for Victorian-era London. Then it hit me (pun intended) that London Bobbies were famous for not carrying guns, but rather batons. So I turned to Wikipedia, and learned that a truncheon or baton also is called a cosh, Paddy wacker, billystick, billy club, nightstick, sap, blackjack, stick.
That kind of sheds new light on the old nursery rhyme...
This old man, he played one,
He played knick-knack on my thumb;
Give a dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.