Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Is the Strangest Thing You Have Ever Researched?

"Der Naturforscher" - Carl Spitzweg
One of the best parts of being a writer is the strange things you're forced to research. I was delving into some very bizarre flora and fauna over the weekend and learned way more than I ever thought I would about the climate of a very particular time period. (But I can't reveal which time because it would be a spoiler).

What's the strangest thing you've researched in the course of your writing?

This should be good.






193 comments:

Darian said...

Can I count the ten years of "research" I've been forced into by the wife, on horses, that is finally being utilized in one of my WIPs? Lord knows I've gotten stepped and poohed on enough to call it research. ;)

Rebekah James said...

I spent a week researching differnet ways to kill yourself with aquarium equipment for a short story I was putting in for a contest. (A good freshwater set up includes pressurized CO2 canisters) My best friend/Roommate at the time found the searches on the computer and completely freaked out - went to the extent of contacting my boss at the hospital where I worked. It was awkward.

Elle said...

Underwater corpse decomposition rates. The Google Image search was a bad idea...

Kimberly Menozzi said...

For me, it has to be a tie between three different issues for my current (fiction) project:

1) How soon can a male cyclist "perform" after being in the saddle for roughly six or seven hours?

2) When giving urine for a drug test, what are the processes/protocols with the agent collecting the sample?

3) And finally, relating back to number one, in some ways: Saddle sores, their treatment, and the pain from hours spent riding (pressure points).

Yeah, the research has been a bit...scary, at some points.

magpiewrites said...

Funeral Director conventions. Apparently, FD's know how to network AND party.

Hillsy said...

How to live forever....

....seriously.

I needed to find out how to speed up or halt the process of replacing dead cells with those of the equivalent aged.

Liberty Speidel said...

I don't know if I'd classify this as strange, and since I'm a mystery writer with a touch of sci-fi, I tend to stick to police procedural stuff...

But, for my current WIP, I needed to know the relative positions of Earth, Mars, and Jupiter in July of 2117 (when my book is set.) If they were too far apart, my scenario wasn't going to work. Fortunately, they're supposed to be in relatively close proximity to each other. :)

I'm sure I've had more bizarre than that, but I can't think of anything...

Toni Anderson said...

Dirty bombs. Fauna and flora of the Wakhan Corridor. What it feels like when you have psychic visions. What happens when you escape RCMP custody... The list is endless, and too much fun.

Kelley said...

This is not very strange... more inspirational and unexpected...

For one of my Engineering classes we had to write a technical paper, then give a technical presentation. (Not my most favorite type of writing by any means, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do ;))

I decided to do mine on soccer, which I spent 18+ years playing. (I was going to focus on the equipment advances, that sort of thing). But then I uncovered a sport called Wheelchair Soccer. It turns out it is played throughout the country and is a very big deal to many athletes. I attended a few games and was totally inspired by the players. That was a great paper and presentation to give.

Brian Byrne said...

Whether or not one could extinguish the sun. As it turns out, no - the sun is merely a giant ball of burning gases that will only extinguish when it feels like it.

I've also researched weird animals, famous landmarks and periods of time.

BP said...

Haha, the better question IS: Where have you ENDED UP after researching for WIP's...hmmm...oh the memories... ;D

CourtLoveLeigh said...

Hmm, what's fresh on my mind is species of trees in University Parks in Oxford and looking at images of meth addicts...

Also the mating and mothering habits of elk.

Learning stuff is fun! Excellent question today :]

Sam Webb said...

Timing and gender differences in witch trials/deaths across Europe

Jayne said...

The strangest thing I've ever researched? Hm. Perhaps where bodies wash up along the Thames river, London. That was pretty grizzly. A nicer piece of research was getting in touch with a Yeoman of the Guard to ask him about his uniform (how he gets dressed, basically. He was mightily amused.)

Richard Gibson said...

Lots of research for non-fiction, of course. I think the most interesting was a connection that derived from laying the trans-oceanic cables by the Gutta Percha Company, named for the gummy sap that once made golf balls, and under the direction of one Willoughby Smith. Smith was looking for metals that were good conductors for the cables. He accidentally discovered that selenium was ineffective -- but its conductance changed depending on light falling on the metal.

And that led to photocopiers, electric eye doors, camera light meters, and the ability to measure the subtle light from distant galaxies.

Jennifer Cary Diers said...

What a great question! One day I was looking through my recent search history and was a bit disturbed by the results:

http://jennifercarydiers.blogspot.com/2011/04/sometimes-my-work-is-weird.html

I also spent an entire day (8-10 hours) recently researching a single Irish folk rhyme. I needed to know absolutely everything there was to know about it. By the end of that day, I wanted to pull my hair out.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I called the Fan Museum (yes, there is a fan museum) to find out the makes and models of fans that had unscreened blades. I needed a fan that a person could get too close to and have an ear chopped off. (The museum director really got into it after I explained the story. Um, no pun intended.)

Rachel Menard said...

Since I write fantasy, I generally don't have to research because I make it up, but in my latest WIP I made my characters potato farmers. After deciding their crops would mature in the fall, I wondered if that really is when potatoes are harvested. Since you're all dying to know, potatoes are harvested year round depending on the type.

Kristi said...

How many people could theoretically ride inside the cab of a semi. The web turned out to be far less useful than my 4-year old son's bookshelf. The kid likes things with wheels :)

Marion Roach Smith said...

The moment in time that the gene mutation for red hair expressed itself in the human genome, thus the population, thereby unleashing the wonders of redheads on the world.

Anonymous said...

Which foods contain cyanide, so I could murder a character. My search led me to the _Little Cyanide Cookbook_, wherein the goal is to become healthier.

Adrianne

Artemis Grey said...

Fatal Familial Insomnia
How various Irish creatures of myth kill people
How much blood a human can lose before death is unavoidable
The effects of frostbite
Nano Technology
How long it takes for a bread bag to decompose

I'm sure I've researched other strange things. Those are just the ones that stick out in my mind

And @Magpiewrites I'm LOL because my dad IS a funeral director! Aaaaand you're totally right about them... :)

Jay said...

How to build your own coffin.

Nicole Lorenz said...

Whether it's possible to kill a bear with a knitting needle. The internet didn't have a conclusive answer (seems nobody's tried this - hm, I wonder why?), but it IS possible to fatally stab a person with one.

And if you're going to kill someone with knitting needles, aluminum is more effective than wood. Same goes for baseball bats. *The More You Know*

Ivana said...

Many things, from what kind of weapon FBI agents use, to stages of grief, underwater decomposition also, hallucinations, out of body experiences, the cycle of an apple tree (when do they bloom in Oregon?)Research is one of my favorite parts of writing.

Ice Charades said...

The magical toilets of Japan!

For example, some come with a button to make birds sounds and others can monitor your blood pressure.

crow productions said...

It's too bad I don't get paid to research weird stuff. Maybe I should write a book...

Jadi said...

Can falling down the stairs kill you?

Do bruises stay on the body after the body's died? (I don't watch CSI or anything, you know)

What were medieval forms of birth control?

Claire Gregory said...

I'm going to go with genitourinary war wounds (gunshot/ shell wounds to the groin region, obviously) and suprapubic cystostomy (you don't want to know). I strongly recommend *against* searching Google Images for either of those things. Really. On the other hand, my level of shellshock may now be approaching that of my soldier character's, which could be useful for the level of realism in my portrayal...

carlakempert said...

It's not strange, but I once did some research on AIDS/HIV for a manuscript. My then-husband found my files and asked my mom if I was okay. He was afraid I was sick--and where would I have gotten sick, pray tell?!--and that was the reason our marriage was breaking up. No, it couldn't have anything to do with the fact that he was a class-A moron.

I've put together a proposal for more books along the same lines of the one I'm working on, and one will involve a character who's an MMA fighter. I know nothing about it, but it should be fun!

Stephanie McGee said...

I can't say I've researched anything too out of the ordinary. I've definitely researched plants and such. I've done research on old-time ships (think Pirates of the Caribbean-era type ships), and a lot of research on the military, their protocols for different things and their weapons.

I've researched restaurants and neighborhoods of various cities in the US for the settings of my WiP I'm currently revising.

I've been researching the Dead Sea Scrolls a little and the myths and legends around famous disappearances, either of people or great treasures. That was fun, looking for famous items that are missing that could factor into the mythos of a WiP I've got in development. (Like the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine and similar occurrences.)

Ellen Keim said...

I once researched Japanese balloon bombs that were used during WWII. They actually caused a small number of casualties in the U.S.

Melissa said...

Different ways to hide poison in food. My mom likes to remind me this is the reason why I am still single!

Project Savior said...

Two of the weirdest things I had to research. What are the safety issues of a woman going into space if she lost her bra? Unfortunately none, it is less stressful on that area then a quarter mile jog. That didn't stop me from coming up with a solution.
The second one was what type of perfume would a girl who is bipolar with aspergers wear. I had to research what scents perfume makers use to target different personalities. A combination of ginger and jasmine is what they target for bipolar schizophrenia, by the way.

Joe Iriarte said...

Funny you should mention this; I *just* blogged about it (from a slightly different angle) last week: http://www.labyrinthrat.com/journal/2011/what-would-the-fbi-make-of-your-search-history/

Most recently I googled what it would take to bring down the US gov't from within. The funniest answer was from one of my commenters, though. She writes YA, and was looking for pictures she could use to visualize her characters, so she googled up images of teens . . . >_< . . . apparently a mistake she will not be making again!

Jeanne Lyet Gassman said...

1. How to shop for a camel.
2. The taste of datura (don't ask). Spent some time emailing a botanical expert and reading some pretty freaky websites for the latter.

Elle said...

I kind of have to take exception with Rachel Menard's comment that fantasy writers don't have to do much research. As a fellow fantasy writer, I can assure you I've done research in fields as varied as the effects of temporary amnesia, weather patterns at the base of foothills, the stages of grief (snap again, Ivana!), and medieval horse types, to name a mere few. Just because we also make stuff up (aka world-building, which is a mammoth and complex task in itself), doesn't mean we don't also have to make our worlds realistic and believable.

Sorry... didn't mean to get up on my soapbox, there. It just bugs me a little when people assume fantasy is easier to write than other genres because we can do whatever we like. Not the case at all.

Sommer Leigh said...

Aside from researching how to pick a lock and a lot of reading about electricity since I nearly failed physics in high school and remember nothing of what I supposedly did learn, I haven't done a lot of weird traditional researching.

I did climb into the trunk of a car once so I could properly describe what it felt like, smelled like, and how to got out. I inadvertantly also learned how to describe claustrophobia panic a lot better since, until that moment, I'd never suffered from it.

The REALLY Real Curious Crow said...

Anyone ever fear what would happen if their internet activity was "looked into"? Yikes! lol

Amy said...

How to fossilize a dead body. This is different from mummifying , and I needed to know what process was appropriate for bronzing so that no decaying gasses interfered with the sculpture being put in a public place.

whisperedwritings said...

As a librarian, someone asked me to help him identify the fungus growing on his toe. As a writer, the best ways to stab someone and then clean up blood. I'm sure that there is an FBI file on me somewhere over that one.

Surly Jason said...

As a writer for DamnInteresting.com, I've researched Springheel Jack, Mad Jack Churchill, The Killdozer, Jim Corbett, Virgina Hall, Highrise Syndrome, Vibrators, Vaseoline, dogs trained to fight tank, Mike the Headless Chicken ... list goes on and on.

Recently though I sat with a few scientists from the University of Utah and discussed forcefields. It was pretty wow.

Amber said...

Strangest that wasn't sexually explicit would be what the laws are regarding paternity rights for a child born of rape. The answer is that it varies by state, with some silent on the matter and others specifying that no parental rights would be granted to the rapists. This assumes that the sexual assault can be proven, which can get tricky all on its own.

Kelli L. Kozak said...

Hermaphrodites (now Intersex), Freak Shows of the 1970s and Carnival Slang.

D.G. Hudson said...

The different area of the brain that affect cognitive decisions. (Needed this for my completed multidraft sci-fi novel)

Also I research a lot at the NASA site in regard to galaxy outerwear, and where to go in the solar systems, etc. That's not strange though, it's highly enjoyable. But maybe more than I need to know at times.

What I found more intriguing was studying the results of different methods of murder in my forensics book. This is for the mystery which is WIP.

I like research, and I watch the news for new developments which might affect what I'm writing. (e.g., can I use that in my novel or a future one?) I'm just looking for material, you understand.

Now I'm intrigued Nathan, that you were searching for info of a certain time period. Is this a teaser for your next novel, Nathan?

Kevin Michaels said...

As a writer of some urban noir, my research tends to take me into the darker side of crime. For a short story I was working on I needed to research life in prisons, and I spent two or three days reading every kind of article imaginable about life on the inside, including correspondence between inmates and people on the outside......my wife used the computer after I was done (and failed to clean up the history) and had some significant questions about my own past. It took a lot of persuasive skills to convince her I was neither a hardened criminal hiding my own past nor thinking about starting some kind of pen pal relationship with convicts.....

If there was a saving grace it was that readers of the story loved the "authentic voice" of life on the inside....

Meg said...

Not really weird research, but funny:

A few years back I was surfing through baby name sites to find the perfect name for a character and my husband came up behind me to ask me something.

He stopped mid-sentence, got a little pale and said, "Um. Is there something you need to tell me?"

I couldn't stop laughing for quite a while!

Christian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Michaels said...

Or it could be the time I took my wife deep into the heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens to research locations for a novel (after telling her stories about the Pine Barrens being a dumping ground for mob victims from both NYC and Philly). After driving a couple of miles down a sandy/dirt road with no signs of civilization she called my mother and told her she was convinced I was trying to kill her and dump her body.....

She really does put up with a lot of crap from me in my pursuit of a writing career.

Christian said...

I researched a cult known as Raliens. It's a UFO cult known for their pro stance on human cloning and basically lots of sex. They believe that the world was created by aliens who will only return once humans learn to get along with each other.

Dominique said...

While it had a bit of tough competition, I think the strangest thing I ever researched was what types of arson actually constitute federal as opposed to state crimes without the arson occurring on federal land. On the other hand, the information has since come in useful (or at least come up in conversation) so it's more than paid off.

A Paperback Writer said...

The differences in slang words in Glaswegian and Edinburgh Scots, the construction/use/care of body bags, the disposal of blood at a mortuary, bird strikes, chicken cannons (not joking), laws about drying laundry outdoors, condominium swimming pool safety laws, automatic dog bath machines in Japan, the training of border collies to herd geese off golf courses.
The chicken cannons were my favorite. :)

Jenny Maloney said...

This was a hands-on research project...you know, practicing The Method form of writing:

It was for a short story about a kidnapping and I had my brother (only do this stuff with people you trust) shut me in two different car trunks.

The first one was an older Buick--trunk is roomy and super, super dark. And yes, it gets hot as hell really fast.

The second one was a 2002 Chevy Cavalier and you know what I learned? There are panic handles in newer cars that glow in the dark so you can release the trunk from inside. When I magically opened the trunk, I suprise my brother. =)

Himbokal said...

Recent research:

Cock fighting rings and their construction.

The Euterpe genus of plants (includes hearts of palm and acai).

Common North Korean first and last names. Fun fact: 50% of Koreans have one of three surnames: Kim, Lee, or Park.

Anonymous said...

As an editor I once had to edit an erotic short story. Without going into detail, I had to research the word beaver.

Cheryel Hutton said...

Oh, where do I start, LOL. DNA (review to make sure I got my facts right), vampires history and current, same for werewolves. The strangest is probably months of serial killer mindset. Fascinating and scary.

Roger Floyd said...

How about the interior of the sun? It's 30 million degrees hot but ten times denser than lead. That's so weird I can't visualize it at all.

Anonymous said...

Prostitution, and the disturbing thing is that some books that claim to be serious memoirs by former prostitutes are actually just a rather icky form of erotica.

Javid Suleymanli said...

mine is IS IT BENEFICIAL FOR A PERSON TO CHANGE HIS/HER HOBBY TO CAREER ?

http://www.javidsuleymanli.com/2011/02/ghjgjh.html

Cathy Yardley said...

What really goes on in a restaurant. While that in itself isn't strange, I interviewed a restaurant manager who started out business like, then discovered I was writing a romance novel. Next thing I know, she had the chef make me my own woodfire pizza and was telling me stories about how she'd caught staff having sex on the bar top. Not even kidding.

Munk said...

Stink Lily

Ken Umbach said...

Among others, indoor mold and its policy implications (months and months of tedious research and writing, for a policy report). I research lots of odd little things for my weekly column -- follow-ups on long-ago news items on which I do riffs.

Stephanie Barr said...

The list is too long to include. I'm a weird one. Off the top of my head I remember:

*Teaching myself tarot for a series of short stories.
*Researching the neurology of the brain so I could figure out where to take out a chunk and put in an external interface for quick contact communication.
*Specific issues and symptoms of drowning and encephalitis.
*Where to mine tungsten.
*Many related to swordsmithing.
*Model of guns used as sidearms by the ATF.
*Coast Guard/Navy locations near Pensacola that might be associated with tropical storms.

Believe me, that's barely the tip of the iceberg. I love learning.

Carolyn Abiad said...

In the past few months, I've researched Mithraic pirate cults, Karabasan (aka sleep paralysis), tree house hotels and the Poyraz wind. And one castle made with milk-based mortar.

Blue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirsten said...

Stinkhorn mushrooms.
And they REALLY do.

Also a 16th century Italian cook who first documented boiled bagels and had a recipe for hand rolled marzipan cookies that translates to "cat poop treats."
I shit you not.
er. yeah, sorry.

Rick Daley said...

Ice cores, sunlight, and arctic sea ice for my book THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS. That was also the greatest volume of research. About 100,000 words read in order to write 10.

I've also researched crop rotation (specifically between soybeans and corn) and ciccadas for one book and snakebites, the history of the coin, and 13th century France for another.

WORD VERIFICATION: bedin. A post-class evening goal for collegiate bar-hoppers looking for a date.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a story with terrorist bad guys one time, so I was doing internet searches on subjects like "components of a nuclear bomb" and "yield of a dirty bomb" and "how to smuggle something into the U.S." I was expecting the FBI to knock on my door any minute.

Steph Sinkhorn said...

Actual conversation from my home:

Boyfriend: "Hey babe. Whatcha doin' over there?"

Me: "Researching electric eels, 18th century batteries, and which plants would create the most poisonous hybrid."

Boyfriend: "... You didn't even make that up, did you?"

Mr. D said...

Anonymous at 9:25. They wouldn't have knocked.

Valerie Rieker said...

Haha... how to cure a raw hide using funneled smoke and the animal's brains. Did you know that an animal has just enough chemical stuff in his brain to cure his entire hide? =P

Michael Matewauk said...

Great question, Nathan. Moved to New York to document the staging of a Mark Twain on Broadway at the Lyceum theater and got run out of the auditorium by the sound/design crew. The set looked amazing & I had my videocamera with a tape of an interview I conducted with a Twain impersonator -- and when I asked the crew if they wanted to see it (I thought they'd be interested but I also thought it'd be cool/good luck to inaugurate the space with the videospirit playback), boy, they literally chased me outta there like a cartoon. I'm talkin' 'Yabba-dabba-doo' time.

The good news was I was met back in the lobby by a woman that ran some 'History of Broadway Theater' archive in an upstairs office and she took me up and showed me around. The office used to be a private apartment & she pulled back a secret panel that opened up to a bird's-eye view of the stage. Then she showed me an old letter she found stashed away that Twain had written to a Broadway producer regarding some point-of-business/minutiae that I can't recollect. Not strange as much as feeling like I walked back in time.

Jason Black said...

Probably the location of prosthetic limb fitting services in the Bronx. Yes, I'm a stickler for details.

J. Anne Huss said...

Since I write non-fiction, and I put out a new product every week, I learn strange things every weekend. I am a plethora of useless factoids. Botfly life cycle (and other parasites) is hands down the creepiest research I've ever done - you have to see the videos on YouTube of the botflies exploding out of the skin of animals...even humans. My wiener-dog once found a "semi-dead" mouse in the garage and it subsequently exploded like an alien when he tried to catch it. Yes, it was our friend the bot fly making his debut. Disgusting!

Allison Morris said...

Urban medical waste removal in third world countries. I know more about incinerating, shredding, and burying medical waste that I ever thought possible.

Carolyn Parkhurst said...

My weirdest is probably Mesopotamian slaves; it had nothing to do with what I was writing, but it was part of one random paragraph, and I spent about half a day on it.

Also, a word to the wise: if you're ever trying to figure out what a child in modern-day Japan might wear, don't just do an image search for "Japanese girl." Especially not if you're in Starbucks at the time.

Rebecca said...

'Phantom pains' in amputees.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Researching what the Apocalypse would look like; I went to Detroit.

Kaitlyne said...

I tend to write suspense, so a lot of my research involves things like weapons, wounds, police investigations, etc. A lot of it feels weird while doing it (I wrote one book about a corporate spy and got to look up a lot about how to break into buildings and get around security), but the one that probably actually stands out as the oddest thing I've looked up was how to kill someone with a weight bench.

Does anyone else do these things and hope the police never decide to look up your search history?

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I spent an evening learning about crocodile genitalia. My dragons are based on reptile-to-bird evolution and I figured I should be thorough in my own anatomical notes.

Livia said...

Let's just say my friends have been skeptical that my recent interest in pregnancy and childbirth is just "for my novel"

CMR Prindle said...

Nothing nearly as interesting as others. Possibly the most interesting to me was mid-sized feral cats. The strangest might have been Chinese vampires. They're easily distracted and they hop. My characters had a great time with that one.

Leigh Ann said...

Dumpsters. I needed to know whether any existed in the 1940s. Then I decided I didn't need to know that. But it was a fun hour. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

You basically just revealed that Jacob and the kids go through a wormhole ... unless they don't.

And I'm not even going to begin to come close to any admissions on this topic, though it is a fun one!

JohnO said...

1) How to "float" a car on a lake, the way it's sometimes done at golf tournaments.

2) The procedure for getting a Brazilian wax job.

Misty Moncur said...

How to cook and eat a snake. Yum.

Alan Orloff said...

Kuru

Anonymous said...

I once researched which poisons are slow acting, and the impacts they have.

I'm sorry to bring this up here, but I have been thinking a lot about yesterday's post and it really made me wonder about something that I couldn't work out how to discuss with everyone.

I'm a chicken for posting anonymously because I'm a regular commenter on this blog, (and I've already bought Nathan's book) but I really feel I'll be misunderstood on the subject. I just can't get the wording right. So forgive me in advance for any inadvertent offence caused...

I'm just wondering, if Nathan was still a literary agent would more people have bought his book to stay in his 'good books' so to speak? And would they have already listed more reviews and made it known that they'd purchased his book in the hope that he would look more favorably on any query they sent through? (I'm not suggesting at all you would give advantage to anyone, Nathan, I'm talking about what people do to give themselves any leverage they think they can get, real or perceived) This factor may have contributed to sales figures.

A number of people who used to comment regularly on this blog don't anymore, and I guess I assume that's because Nathan isn't seen as 'useful' to them anymore.

I bet I've already offended people, and if so I apologize. I'm not talking about the majority of people who frequent this blog, I'm just talking about the impact of 'positional power', networking leverage and perceptions. I hope you understand the point I'm trying rather inarticulately to make.

Self promotion is really hard, and I think Nathan handled a tricky subject very well, but it just got me wondering you know..?

Laila Knight said...

I had to research how deep to cut through an artery with a knife. If was for my manuscript...really. It was a whole soldier training thing. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't do a lot of research because I write fantasy/ sci fi and my high school physics lessons are more than enough "research" on that front.

However, I have spent an entire day looking up the worst things to name your child for my novel.

I got some pretty strange results, and when my friend saw my search history, she took one look and said are you PLANNING to get your future child beaten up in the school yard?

Stephsco said...

This is SUCH a great topic!

I recently researched ships of various Spanish conquistadors and whether the Spanish had access to potatoes and when. I watched a PBS documentary series because of the research hosted by a wily British man who was so geeked about the topic it was inspiring! All for the sake of backstory...

Alyson said...

Nothing so interesting as many of these comments...alas!

But there were the crypts under St. Mark's, electrocution, 19th century air pressure experiments, carbon-monoxide releasing compounds, Victorian underwear, avian fornication, and methods for dissecting pigeons.

Thank God for the Internet. Dunno if I could face my librarian with all of that!

SBJones said...

I would say the social influences of the Japanese in world war two and how they went from an imperial war machine to a very passive nation in a span of a generation.

Kourtnie McKenzie said...

I wanted a character addicted to coffee, even though I don't drink coffee. It's like a nervous tick for them to grab XYZ cup of caffeine.

So I've been exposed to more than two dozen different ways to prepare coffee now. Some of them are not pleasant. Others are surprisingly fantastic. If someone else is there, I ask them what they think, since different tastebuds yield different opinions.

It's always fun to go to a restaurant, and the first thing I ask the waiter is, "Do you have coffee and Kahlua? Someone said it's prepared that way. I've never had it. I need one."

Hollister Ann Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beverly Diehl said...

I decided to have a character swallow a wedding ring - then I had to research what happens next. What would her doctor's office say when she called (once they stopped laughing)- and when would the ring, uh, reappear? At what point would she need medical invention if it didn't, and what form would that take? Writing in Flow

Kerry Gans said...

There are some great "weird" research topics on this list!

Min was: When was chunky peanut butter "invented?"

Turns out original peanut butter was always chunky because they didn't have the technology to get it totally creamy. So in the end, it was "smooth" peanut butter that was invented!

Darley said...

Monasteries. For a short story. Way more interesting than I thought it would be.

The research not the story.

I like the story too.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@10:41-

I honestly don't think there was a large contingent of people who were doing things just to try to impress me so I might look more favorably on their query when the time came. I wondered along with everyone else what would happen when I transitioned this blog from being an agent blog to author blog, but there hasn't been a dropoff in readers and comments. The regular commenters always come and go, that's kind of the life cycle of a blog and has been happening from the beginning.

So I can't imagine that there was this big audience that I lost out on just because I stopped being an agent.

Diana said...

I write erotica with a BDSM twist. I'm not even going to tell you some of the places I've gone and some of the stuff I've seen in my research. :)

Anonymous said...

The Seattle bus schedule. And when is the best time to harvest rutabagas. (Different WIP.)

Sierra McConnell said...

I'll never forget the time I was correcting a fictional death by poisoning and laughing at all the wrong details. I even looked it up to show her the facts.

"Are you sure this is for research?!"

If only we hadn't been IMing each other, I could have deadpanned, "You'll never know until it kicks in."

Michelle Levy said...

I researched any and all scientific explanations for invisibility. There are quite a few very plausible choices, not that I understood the physics of most of what I read, but it was fun to learn about it.

Jan Priddy, Oregon said...

P.T. Barnum and circus freakshows; what would happen to an unmarried mother in Tennessee in 1915?; weather in 1925 on July 8th in 1925; laws addressing animal hoarding; euphemisms, synonyms, and misogyny. I've learned a lot of interesting stuff along the way.

Hollister Ann Grant said...

Ghost photos... like the one of Uncle Orb.

My late husband was a military history buff and nature photographer who took thousands of photos of the Gettysburg battlefield, including some uncanny ones. Just for fun, and as a tribute to him, I created a small ebook of Gettysburg ghost photos.

I did some Civil War research so I could summarize what happened at each location, but ran into a problem when I wasn't sure where he took a few photos... like the one of Uncle Orb. I thought Uncle Orb was across from the Irish monument, but when I went there, the boulders didn't match the rocks in the photo.

I ended up crawling around in the woods until I found the right spot. Then, to be scrupulous, I drove and/or walked to the location in every photo just to be sure I had the right places.

Jan Priddy, Oregon said...

Anonymous @ 10:41. No offense taken. Yes, I've noticed too. But you could look at it the other way around—how we are useful to Nathan... then and now.

S. Kyle Davis said...

Deep back story for my novel, including amongst other things fringe skirmishes in the Quebec region France during the French and Indian war.

Jessica Young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Young said...

French toilets of the late 1800's.

Sylvia Ney said...

WOW! Some really interesting responses. ;-)

I want to extend a personal invitation to my blogfest: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/07/wonderland-giveaway-blogfest-2011.html

Matthew C Wood said...

Witness accounts of Encounters with Men in Black. Some of those tales are just bizarre!

R.D. Allen said...

Vasospasms and the kind of medicines used in mental institutions. Not for a WIP, actually, for a play-by-post forum rpg. Wish I got paid for that stuff, it's gold. xD

Kristen Simmons said...

How to make a pipe bomb. Pretty sure big brother is on to me.

sherylmonks said...

Loved reading these responses! The most recent weird thing I've researched... how to dissect a cat, for a short story newly written.

G said...

"The Divine Comedy", Pulp Fiction and the Bible for a longish short story and a half completed trunk novel.

AspiringAuthorSarah said...

For my latest WIP i've been researching British insults and butchering(like turning game into meat).

Bethany J. said...

How to butcher an animal. I didn't find anything. :( Either I wasn't looking hard enough, or there weren't any YouTube videos at the time... (I'm glad...eew.)

CageFightingBlogger said...

Liquid explosives, police procedures for handling suspects who are social services clients, how the world would work if it was flat, which direction a running man would fall if he were shot in the head close range, songs from films about food. to name a few!

Anonymous said...

Relative weights of a person on the different planets and moons in our solar system, for my sci-fi story.

Johnvise said...

Elephant genitalia

Kristin Laughtin said...

The history of artificial blood, Sweden in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the Cambodian climate in the Ice Age. Two of those were for the same book!

Lee Wardlaw said...

World Records for longest bout of sneezing and longest bout of hiccuping...

also the oldest piece of chewing gum ever found. (9,000 years!)

J.C. Martin said...

Bomb-making, London Underground stations, London's new Olympic Village, hierarchy and procedure in the Metropolitan Police Murder Investigation Teams, the effects on the human body of being electrocuted in the bath tub...

Does it sound like a list of a potential terrorist?

CT said...

This is a wonderful question!!!!! I'm still working on my first novel, so I don't have that much of weird topics (mythical murderous creatures of the world who are similar in several countries is one) but I'm the unnoficial researcher in my family. Lately I've had to research on duck breeding, victorian house construction and hypnosis.

Carrie M said...

Pole dancing! I spent an evening watching how-to videos about pole dancing for a short story I was working on. I walked a fine line as far as avoiding sites that would give my computer viruses that night!

Juli Page Morgan said...

Recently I've researched how one feels when on heroin, Rolls-Royce body styles and the interior of London's Marquee Club in 1967.

Natalie said...

I don't know if it's the strangest, but recently I've been researching Wuxia stories and literature from China. This stuff goes back over a thousand years. It changes over time but always has martial arts. Crouching Tiger, HIdden Dragon was a wuxia story. Fun stuff and I'm learning about cool weapons!
Cool question and fun reading the comments.

Elizabeth Haysmont said...

I had to research odd University degrees. Apparently you can get a degree in bowling alley management. Perhaps you'd care to minor in Astrobiology?

I had a character who was bragging on her "precious daughter" and I needed the most ludicrous college degree I could find. The daughter went on to design ball return equipment, by the way.

Lani Longshore said...

Does failed research count? I've been trying to find out when percherons were first imported by Japan. Yes, European war horses. Darian, if you've got a suggestion, please share!

Angela Brown said...

I once had to resarch the 'art' and 'benefits' of Chinese foot binding.

For a fiction project, I had to research ways in which people experience carbon monoxide poisoning.

bsiscon said...

I was actually researching from the designers side for this particular project, and had to find objects made of/covered with human flesh...There were a lot of things I came across that I didn't need to know :) Including finding a company that produces faux flesh for wholesale; like cloth.

bsiscon said...

I was actually researching from the designers side for this particular project, and had to find objects made of/covered with human flesh...There were a lot of things I came across that I didn't need to know :) Including finding a company that produces faux flesh for wholesale; like cloth.

Michelle McLean said...

LOL I've emailed a horticulture society about the plants that bloom in England in the winter; researched the history of the toilet so I'd know if my characters needed chamber pots or could go ahead and flush; and emailed a doctor once to ask how long a dead body would have hair :D

Good times :D

Seeley Street said...

Jesuits hunting meteorites in Antarctica.

Shadowkindrd said...

Aztec food. Heck, food period. So very many weird foods out there, it's astonishing, tbh. Frog eggs skimmed straight out of the lake, pressed, and eaten. Ever researched what garum is really made of? And how it's made? Salt trade routes? Salt cod trade? Wars were fought over these thnigs, folks. How much, and what type of grain can be grown in what climate? What happens if x piece of technology is missing in a culture? What happens if the culture doesn't have pack animals? So many awesome things to research. One of the most awesome things I found out is that up until refrigeration kicked in, one of the most important considerations on where to place a town was access to salt. It's those little things that ground the stories.

IMO, fantasy writers (including myself) need to do just as much if not more research other genres. Way too many subtle things to miss if they don't, and without that foundation, the worldbuilding can easily come across as shallow. Science fiction writers need to do some of the same, but that's so they can extrapolate into the future.

Seeley Street said...

Jesuits hunting meteorites in the austral summer of Antarctica. Seems the Vatican has had a long standing interest in extra-terrestrial life. Big collection at the Summer Palace.

Heather Marsten said...

For anonymous who researched "beaver" my husband as a Boy Scout named his patrol group the Beaver Patrol - couldn't understand why adults chuckled, he was thinking working as hard as a beaver and eager beaver.

I'm writing a memoir - as one of my scenes I had to recall my research of the sixty-four names of the God Mercury to use with the magic square of Mercury to invoke him. I was in the occult during that stage.

To the person who had to self-learn Tarot the current chapter of my Memoir - Tell Me What He Did that I put up in Critique Circle in the general category (to be posted tomorrow) has a lot on Tarot. If you are a member might check. Critique Circle is a great critique site, one of WD 100 best websites for writers.

What a delightful post!

Heather

Heather Marsten said...

Forgot to add, regarding the Beaver Patrol, years later at Christmas I found a toy stuffed beaver in a resale shop, bought it for a few dollars and had my kids give it to their dad as a joke gift. He still has it.

The priest called all kids to the front of the church and asked them what they got their father's for Christmas. My oldest raised his hand and I groaned (thinking he was going to mention undergarments that we wrapped up as token gifts.) He proudly said, "A stuffed beaver."

The priest was speechless, finally said, "I'm sure he enjoyed it very much.

LOL

toquemag said...

Two quaint mourning practices of the Victorian age. One was the fine art of hair jewelry, made from the hair of your dead loved one. The other was commissioning a photograph of a child after death--all dressed up, sometimes with props, sometimes in her mother's arms. Macabre, and sad.

Heather said...

Either 18th century British ghost towns, the mechanics of how dolphins communicate under water, or coastal hamlets in Denmark.

Soraya & Nick said...

I researched odorless, colorless, tasteless poisons that are relatively available. Yes, a few exist.

Also, whether or not there are raccoons in Russia, types of sawmills/saws used in the 1900s lumber industry in Northern California, and what outward signs bodies (human and jack rabbit) killed by Co2 would show upon discovery the next morning.

Joe Iriarte said...

Hair jewelry! It's too bad that died out so long ago . . . it would totally solve a plot problem of mine!

Anonymous said...

Lollipop sex.

Don't ask.

Joe Iriarte said...

Is that where Skittles come from?

Neil Larkins said...

The strangest thing for me has been the phenomenon of the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, any Amanda Hocking, etc. Can't figure out what has generated the amazing popularity when the writing is only so-so, the stories not original or derivative and the main characters generally pedestrian. Flies in the face of everything I've learned good writing is.

Anonymous said...

Tertiary nipples.

LeeAnn Flowers said...

Thank you, Nathan, for this entertaining subject. I've laughed myself silly over quite a few of these.

I had a baby name book on the dashboard of my car for story names and my mother saw it. That was an interesting conversation. I've researched Skara Brae for a story. Also gamma radiation and what frequencies of light are used to diffuse it, the distance in light years to nearby stars that actually have documented planets orbiting them, the longitude and latitude for a city in Colorado, and subcutaneous stitches.

Anonymous said...

"Is that where Skittles come from?"

LMAO!!

T.K. Thorne said...

Wow, these comments were interesting reading.
For me it was researching the actual origins of middle eastern religion (mind blowing) for my novel NOAH'S WIFE. If its kosher to give a website--www.tkthorne.com

Thanks for the great question!

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

I spent 3 months researching Chicago and railroads for a novel once, then ended up writing only one line about it.

Not exactly strange research.

collectonian said...

Hmmm...don't know about strange, but for my current main WIP, I had to do a lot of research about Japan, including high school day-to-day life, marriage requirements for non-residents (well, he is a demon after all LOL), youngest someone can live alone (14 - seriously), education requirements, various locations, health care, foods, house configurations, and emergency services. I also looked into various heart and lung aliments, which medicines are used to treat which symptoms, and their side affects. Probably the most interesting to learn about was Japanese views of organ transplants. They are surprisingly against - due to their views on souls and suspicions doctors would declare someone dead just to get the parts. They are rare, though the view is changing some, and almost unheard of for kids.

derekberry said...

Once, I researched at what temperature a man's skin might rupture with blisters. AIDS terrorism. Specialized Prostitution. How to cook a human being.

5kidswdisabilities said...

I've had to do research on Dissociative Identity Disorder. (Previously called Multiple Personality Disorder.) It is the most amazing example of how the human mind can work. One part takes the abuse and lets the rest of the mind develop different personalities so they don't have to feel the abuse. Incredibly true stories, one of which is my son. (His homework used to get ripped up and stolen all the time. It was only after much therapy, that he has realized that the "angry" part in him, the one who experienced horrific child abuse, didn't want "the rest of him" to do well. "He" was jealous!

Michelle said...

Recently researched the effects of atomic explosions...on the environment and on people. I was amazed to find that there were photographers paid to stand in the wave of nuclear blasts to photograph test explosions. Many have since died of cancer. And we think writing is tough some days!

dark mistress said...

What a great question! My answer: Antlantic hurricane names,origins of hurricanes off the coast of Africa, their path and time it typically takes before making U.S. landfall. (Since I live in FL I knew something about surviving one already). Also gender non-specific names for characters.

Caleb said...

The weirdest successful research I did was on my first book that's published. It was on how to do a rape kit which led me on the path to how to do a full pap. I'm a dude, so watching videos and that kind of stuff was interesting but getting the feelings of the dr. and the patient/ victim down were hard to research. I've had cops and victims read it and wonder how I got it so well. Some wonder where I hide my feminine side to know how a girl feels about anything.

The unsuccessful research in progress for a specific disease that a victim had in Season 13 Episode Two of Law and Order. This was after I had gotten net accountability so I had to explain to my wife and my closest friends and pastor why I was searching Law and Order so much. Apparently, you can't get that episode anywhere. I even went to NBC in NYC to see if I could buy it from the gift store. Nope. Can't buy it off of Blockbuster, Best Buy or anything. I even searched Craigs List around the country. Then I googled the symptoms... still no luck. I have IMBD set to email me when that epidsode will be on TV. Oh, I even emailed digital piraters to see if they could find it... I didn't want to break the law... but if I had been arrested for it I would have wrote that down instead because surely I would use that in a story. If anybody has that episode, let me know :-)

http://www.5pocketphilosopher.wordpress.com

Loree Huebner said...

I write historical fiction - Civil War era. I had to research how they did limb amputations in a field hospital after a battle...pretty gross.

Caleb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C.Smith said...

Define 'strange'. =)
I've researched things from how fast red blood cells recuperate, to what happens to a person's body once they've passed away, to what scares people most, etc. I can't say that anything I've ever researched is strange. It IS strange, however, that I actually researched certain topics. Anybody who didn't know I'm a writer would call the police if they found my books plastered with notes about death and cults and stuff.

Robin Connelly said...

Loni Longshore--

They were exported to Japan in 1880s according to: http://www.percheron.com.au/midac/reception.pl?UEPage=1&Page=UE1&Source=&Code=iINozh47&returnURL=&Template=percheron&st=&Ref=&exc=&wide=600&tw=600

My strangest research topic? Probably something related to death though the one I am currently thinking of is "Are people still aware of what's going on for a few minutes after they have been decapitated?" The answer is inconclusive. But I found it interesting to learn that of a science experiment that was done at a beheading to find out.

Lani Longshore said...

Thank you, Robin!

Shaunna said...

How to start (and drive) a 1926 Austin 7 automobile. Turns out it's much more complicated than starting a modern automobile.

Charlotte Chase said...

I had to research a seal called Nelson. He was blind in one eye and a hit with the fishermen.

marion said...

Nothing gruesome.
Just discovered that moles (burrowing mammals) do not exist in Egypt.

Did some research on ancient-Egyptian mathematics. I have a hard enough time with mathematics of any kind. Ancient-Egyptian fractions are really mind-blowing. Luckily, my protagonist isn't good at math either!

wordsmith said...

The dimensions and layout of a laundry room in a early 20th century TB sanatorium.

Lex said...

Not necessarily strange, but difficult and time consuming: While writing book two of my Second Advent trilogy, I went down the rabbit hole after a rumored document that the Catholic Church had secreted away over 1700 years ago. I didn't find it, exactly, but I did find enough allusions to the parchment to put it in the book. Hey, it's fiction...;o)

Eileen said...

Haha I no longer feel so weird. Currently I'm researching a meeting in a real estate boardroom - the top executive officers. I also didn't know how someone could own a company in the U.S. before with all these anti-trust laws.

M.R. Anglin said...

Strangest thing I've researched? Well, I had to find out what would happen if a person injected vodka into their veins, and what the temperature of a morgue is.

Seidel said...

Filicide, suicide, and gangrene. Depressingly large amount of information available on the net about suicide and filicide but the research was a powerful tool to better understand my character, adding great emotional and psychological depths.

Miriam said...

Some of these are hilarious! I love the fact that a large number of them are about, or are at least related to, murder, death or murderers.

I found myself doing a whole lot of research the other day - in order to write a song.

I don't even know any more.

Anyway, I spent about twenty minutes reading through a bunch of pages on 'Tardis Files', regarding Gwen Cooper. Just - don't even ask... Librarian was giving me odd looks by the end too.

I've had a few other ones, but none of them are hugely interesting as I mostly get my research from guessing / other books / not writing anything that needs research.

Although, watching films totally counts. When I was writing Legacy, I think I watched 'Lord of the Dance' four times. The thing took me a month. That's once a week! :/

Cossette said...

Golly, these are hilarious! I did some in depth research on arsenic once because of Faulkner's _A Rose for Emily_--I was writing a critical essay and trying to determine when she killed the guy and what exactly arsenic *does* to the body. Apparently there is arsenic everywhere, and that is why you shouldn't let your infant eat dirt.

Ann M said...

What a fun topic!

Aside from having to research the definition of a virus and what exactly biopharmaceutical science is, at this point the weirdest thing was vacuum chambers. Not the kind for left-overs, but the kind NASA would use... (and my brain still hurts from trying to understand it all) :)

Cyndy Aleo said...

We did this one on Absolute Write and I think I won strangest... self-administered ECT, complete with medication you would use for anesthesia that would have amnestic properties with an appropriate half-life AND be available as a street life. I even found a vintage machine on eBay that could run off 9V batteries.

Alexis Grant said...

Great question!

When I was a health reporter at the Houston Chronicle, I wrote a few stories about a mystery disease called Morgellons: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5461761.html
I became so fascinated/horrified by it that I started itching all the time, thinking I was experiencing the symptoms!

Heidi said...

My vote for Comment! Of! The! Week!:

Joe Iriarte said...
Is that where Skittles come from?

he he he

Heidi said...

Unicorns, fairies, fairy rings, elves, Robert Burns, Scotland, Ireland, folklore, Gypsies, horses, plants of various altitudes in the American Southwest, midwestern forest flora, gnomes, stone circles...

I've had to do more research for my fantasy writing than I ever had to do otherwise.

Maria said...

Stayed up late one night, researching traumatic brain injuries, burn treatments, and Michigan pickle farms.

Joe Iriarte said...

*grin*

Thanks, Heidi. :)

Tammy said...

Medical schools, their applications and curriculum circa 1890. This led to a lot of autopsy info.

Another search required finding a mushroom soup recipe that used Death Cap mushrooms and what the first and final side effects would be.

Kim Mullican said...

Serial Killers, Drag Queens and Priapism... please don't look up the last one - you'll never be the same!

Carol Ervin said...

How to clean a slop jar.

http://carol-ervin.blogspot.com/2011/02/cleaning-slop-jar-in-1883.html

Robert said...

Hmm...It would have to be interesting incidents about chewing gum. In my research travels I came across a forensic dentist who was involved in a murder case in which a piece of bubble gum was found at the scene of the crime. The suspect in the case claimed to have never been at the scene but the dentist was able to positively identify that gum as having been chewed by the suspect. This, along with other evidence, helped bring about a "guilty" verdict.

Zoe said...

The Long War (a Serbian Rebellion) that started in 1593. May I also state that my book is neither placed in this time zone or this country... Luckily, my history classes came in handy for World War I ;)

Ivana said...

I remember that someone from my authors-list on Twitter once tweeted: "If I should die before I wake, I hope God clears my browser history." (I apologize, it's been ages ago, and I honestly can't remember who exactly it was). Amen to that.

Juturna F. said...

The cooling rate of a body underwater... no, apparently about half the people on this list have researched that, so I suppose it's not that odd after all. ;) I'll have to go with what people used instead of soap, before soap existed (the joys of a bronze age setting.)

Lisa Ahn said...

Strangely enough, how to butcher a pig (and I'm a vegetarian).
What I love most about novel research is that it is, in a way, transcendent, taking me out of who I am and putting me into the book that I am imagining. One of the best parts of the "job".

Joe Iriarte said...

I like that way of looking at it, Lisa Ahn. :)

Rachael said...

Among other things, I've researched...
- French nursery rhymes
- Agoraphobia (it's not just a fear of open spaces)
- How a girl can help a cast horse by herself
- Whether or not smoking weed stains the walls
- What would happen if an entire royal family died
- How to buy an island
- Gasoline or gunpowder when burning down an entire building
- Whether or not boxers have pockets
- Irish language
- How to throw knives

Though not all for the same WIP.

Anonymous said...

I chewed grass to know how to describe the bitter taste. Why I couldn't just write bitter is beyond me. Worst of all, the scene was cut.

Anonymous said...

Some things I've researched have been more unique, or I've had to research far more deeply to get the answer I needed, but when it comes to 'strangest,' I would have to say the underwear used in various pre-elastic societies for both men and women, both in and out of armor, for a scene in a fantasy story where people (from both European and Asian fashion styles from roughly the 10th to 15th century in technoloy) needed to undress to go swimming.

Amy said...

Types and names of dances by letter. Alliteration played very strongly into a previous WiP and I ended up learning how many dances begin with the letter M.

The origins and reception of belly dance in the US in the 1930s. That one stalled, as I had trouble finding reliable research done on the subject. The origins of the dance led me to the mystery of a dancer named Little Egypt, who to this day, people theorize, but still don't know for certain who she was...

Stephanie Allen said...

Medieval plumbling (or lack thereof). It was fascinating.

GSGS said...

Whether it's possible to hijack the entire internet... The internet didn't respond well to my request.

Related Posts with Thumbnails