And all because I’m a writer! Here are some of my most toe-curling internet searches over the past year and the best online resources I found for finding the answers.
You know that feeling. You hesitate before you type something in the blinking search box and wonder whether the next few seconds will get you flagged up on some national database or police watch list?
I’m not sure ‘normal’ people have this problem (unless they’re doing things they shouldn’t anyway) but writers need to do research, and the internet is usually our first call.
And looking suspicious isn’t the only concern. You also have the issue of having constant ads being served back to you for the next week offering you drug rehab, male performance enhancers or (worst of all) wedding dresses. I really regretted the day I searched for wedding dress styles for an hour and then couldn’t escape bridal ads for weeks.
First lesson: Use private browsing to avoid totally inappropriate ad targeting.
Type this into your browser and you’re going to be hit with ads for drug intervention for a fortnight.
Then you might need to head into murkier territory.
A perfectly legitimate question, if one of your characters needs to be shot but ultimately survive. You can’t write this stuff without research, not without running the risk of getting it horribly wrong. Happily, there are places you can go which are tailored to that.
So, my second tip is to join the Trauma Fiction group on Facebook.You can ask any question you like without having to explain yourself. From: how long would it take someone to bleed out if they were shot in the thigh in a swimming pool? to questions about decomp, weapons, medical treatment and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Awesome huh? And all without you being reported to the police!
Even questions like this are answered helpfully and without judgement! Although of course it’s all in a public Facebook group so I wouldn’t suggest using this if you were actually planning to poison someone.
In fact, let me just clarify. Just don’t do that at all.
We’re writers. We avenge ourselves by writing people into our books and killing them there instead.
But it’s great for avoiding those reviews. You know the ones ‘totally unbelievable’, ‘someone can’t die from that?!’ etc.
You can even ask things like this:
Which is a question bound to make any spouse nervous if they glance at your search history.
I even asked at one point:
Not only did I need to know how a car bomb worked and what it would look like. I needed to know the type of fire it would cause, what the remains would be like inside the car, and the blast radius and range of injuries people in the vicinity would receive.
And I got some great advice. You really don’t want to be googling car bombs on the internet, not without coming across some traumatic search results. This is a much safer, and less gory way, of finding your answers.
I’ve also searched for:
Not things you bring up in polite conversation with your friends.
Then there are all the police procedural questions. If you’re dealing with murders, investigations or anything involving police you’ll need a friendly police officer (happily I have one of these).
Alternatively, you can ask the Cops and Writers FB group, who are always happy to help.
I hope that’s helped.
Oh, and if you’re writing historical fiction you’re going to need more specific advice. If you’re looking for anything from clothing, to everyday life, food, crime or medicine you’ll want to look here:For Historical questions (Victorian poisons for example) try the Historical Fictions Research Network on Facebook
What are the worst things you’ve had to Google as part of your research? And please share any other useful resources you’ve found in the comments below!