A friend recently asked to borrow my computer to do a quick internet search. At first I said “sure, here you go.” Then the dreaded fears kicked in…
To be an author means a lot of research. You’re constantly questioning things and wondering exactly how something would work. Or you’ve been toying with an idea to write a character with a shoe fetish. Then you decide that character would be better off as a victim, if you write murder mysteries or suspense, so you research ways to “knock them off”. For example, there’s a scene in an episode of Dead Like Me where a transgendered female gets hit in the forehead with a stiletto and killed. That episode was so wonderfully well written, but the writer had to do some serious research on several topics beforehand.
My internet search history… Well, it’s scary. It’s also probably got me on at least one watch list, if not six. I’m not ashamed of it though. It says I try my best to get it right. You can also come up with some fabulous story ideas while researching things! I always worry that someone might see it and think I’m weird. Being weird is one of the most fabulous things about being a writer though. The ability to see the world differently than what it is, is what makes being a writer so much fun! If you don’t like one ending, then write a new one. Research is the way to do it.
Honestly, when I was a kid I didn’t like researching things. It was boring. Then I hit high school and I was having a horrible time on a paper for a history class. It was on immigration to either Ellis Island or Angel Island. I was stuck. I had no idea how to merge everything into one tiny paper, much less what to choose to use as my central idea. I was so stuck that I ended up writing a short story about a little girl that traveled to America with her family from China. The conditions were so horrible on the ship that she was the only one in her family that survived. I even talked about how overwhelmed she was when she stepped off the boat.
The day of reckoning came though… I didn’t have an actual paper to turn in. I just had a short story. I decided to suck it up and turn in my short story. Imagine my surprise when two days later, the teacher read my story out loud to the class. I ended up getting a 98. The only reason I didn’t get a 100 was because I was in such a hurry to write the story that I forgot to edit it. I had put Ellis Island as the young girl’s destination, instead of the true destination Angel Island. I was so embarrassed that I had messed that tiny detail up. Out of all the research I had done… that was one detail I got wrong.
To this day, I am still embarrassed that I got that detail wrong. I absolutely loved the story that I wrote though. Two weeks later I had several poems published in the high school newspaper and sold some song lyrics. It was all because word had gotten around about my story. Even my mistake, which to some it didn’t matter. It always has to me though. I plan on re-writing her story soon, so I can fix my research mistake. She deserves it. So do I.