Sunday, September 11, 2011


Posted by Melanie Bennett at 8:40 PM
I hate it.

Dang, I picked the wrong job.

I hate it but I do it.

Maybe I don't hate all research. Sometimes it's funny to me. I've had to explore floor plans for Antebellum homes, take a virtual tour of the Space Needle, and study diagrams of marionettes. I've definitely collected some bizarre bits of knowledge.

What surprises me most is that minutiae I have to research that doesn't have much to do with my story. I've spent an hour reading about the origins of steampunk to get a single, non-plot dependent sentence right.

But it pays off. I wrote an entire novel set in Seattle. I never even visited there until after I finished the novel, but I was amazed to discover that the result of all that research was that I walked around the parts of the city I had described and realized I got it right. Surreal.

Here's a top ten list of odd things I've learned while researching:

1. The homes in Audubon Place in New Orleans were protected by Blackwater operatives during the Hurricane Katrina chaos.
2. There are not a lot of spices that make great names for boys.
3. There are a lot of delicious-sounding places to eat in Seattle.
4. It's amazing how much money things will sell for in a New Orleans antique auction.
5. A surprising number of people skirt the foster system in New Orleans.
6. It's hard to research region-specific slang.
7. The cars that teens find cool are totally different between California and Louisiana
8. Any era you search between the 1960s and now, Converse All-Stars are always considered cool
9. The bad parts of Washington DC are among the worst in the country
10. The best research: sitting on Huntington Beach pier while your husband explains why the surfers are doing what they're doing.

What is the weirdest thing you've ever had to research?


LisAway on September 12, 2011 at 12:16 AM said...

I found out number 9 on my own once while driving home from my sister's house in the middle of the night and taking a wrong turn. Gangs staring you down on every corner. I stopped at a gas station (totally darkened station, just a security light on, I think) and a huge motherly black lady said, "Oh, honey! You in the WRONG part of town!"

Weirdest thing I've researched? Goji berries? Solar power vs. solar heating? Bone spurs? None of my research was for such fun writing as yours.

Miranda Hardy on September 12, 2011 at 2:33 AM said...

I love the research, but with spending months and months in the library, I don't use near the amount of research in the book.

Brinda on September 12, 2011 at 7:42 AM said...

Love all your facts! I want to do research like #10. And yes, #8 makes me want some Converses in my closet now. What a nice list.

Becca on September 12, 2011 at 7:49 AM said...

So much "Food research" which boils right down to eating something and figuring out how to describe it precisely.


My current WIP has no ice cream in it AT ALL, which throws my research right out the window.

Susan on September 12, 2011 at 9:23 AM said...

I know so much about BYU soccer I feel like I could have an actual conversation with a team member and not sound like an idiot. Also, I am now a fan and watch all of their televised games--Men or Women. Also, I Google earthed South Field at least twenty times to see what it looks like.

Also, the most popular flavor of BYU Creamery Ice Cream is boringly enough--vanilla. And I visited campus to see where I could put a scene in my book and never ended up using the info I gained. But now I know for sure, the spinning earth is on the second floor.

And I know everything there is to know about glow in the dark stars.

Also, I know tons about Alopecia which hopefully, I will never need for personal use.

Susan on September 12, 2011 at 9:25 AM said...

Oh, and some people think 7-Elevens don't have bathrooms. But they actually do. Big controversy.

Karen Peterson on September 12, 2011 at 12:32 PM said...

I love research. But I know what you mean about having to spend time finding some obscure detail that has nothing to do with the overall story.

Something I've learned by research is that there is a hovercraft out of Oahu that can make it to other islands in less than an hour.

E. Arroyo on September 14, 2011 at 4:42 AM said...

I've researched different folklore and monsters. Yeah, I'm just weird that way. =)

Creepy Query Girl on September 16, 2011 at 4:51 AM said...

I find myself unfollowing people on twitter in real time if they're filling up the roll with inspirational messages or links to more inspirational messages. *sigh* Glad to discover your blog!:) new follower here

Giles Hash on September 16, 2011 at 8:17 AM said...

I like blogs the best, and I don't follow people on Facebook who only let bots spam my wall. It's just annoying. Like the events that last for an entire month and I get constant updates from that event.

And I'm very picky about who I follow back on Twitter. I like twitter, but I just don't want to read review tweets. Tell me about your life :). And DON'T spam my feed with #ff lists. Especially if you do your entire "following" list of 10k people :P

CherylAnne Ham on September 16, 2011 at 3:30 PM said...

Your "real life" example sums it up perfectly. Friendships are give and take, even the online kind. Excellent post. :D

Anna on September 19, 2011 at 6:48 AM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna on September 19, 2011 at 7:07 AM said...

Oops. Commented on the wrong post. :)

Laura on September 21, 2011 at 10:04 AM said...

I haven't read the book, so I don't know what spice names you used, but I actually considered naming one of my sons Coriander.

Suzanne on December 27, 2011 at 8:05 PM said...

Umm, yeah... I had to google "how long will it take a body to decompose in a pond", and "will pond fish nibble at a dead body" (etc.) for my current wip. For the months following those searches, I waited for the cops to come knocking at my door.

Rachel Ward on October 25, 2012 at 11:46 AM said...

So, I realize that I am like a year behind on this post, and who knows if you will even ever get this comment, but yes! I love how you said it wasn't even relevant to the story, but I have to tell you something: If I'm reading a book and the author gets one little detail wrong that has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but would have been solved by about 10 seconds of research on the internet, it drives me crazy. (And by proxy my husband because I never shut up about it.) So, even though you hate it, I totally appreciate that you do it, because without it, it lowers the quality of your books. Anyway, had to share that little rant a year later.

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