Sometimes I think writers must have the weirdest search history ever.
Researching is a big part of writing to me for a number of reasons. The first one being that I decided (foolish perhaps?) to set my zombie novel in the United States. I live in Brazil, and while I have visited the country many times, it’s not the same. There’s a distinct difference between living and visiting, and the only way to bridge that gap is via research (or live there, or write about here, of course). As someone who is constantly watching, reading and listening to American culture, as well other cultures (K-Dramas, Japanese anime, European movies, UK television, Russian Car Cams LOL, etc etc), I’m used to suspend my own cultural views and expectations and let myself be swept away by someone else’s. It means I don’t really care if that TV show doesn’t actually take place in Chicago, and instead is filmed on Canada, and such.
But, I digress… The point is: not everyone is able to do that or should. So I try to research things the best I can, not only the setting but other things. My characters know how to shoot guns, and have an arsenal of a small army. Most of them are from rural/small towns, while I live in a big city. One is a doctor, the other a college professor. They know things I don’t, but now need to.
Which brings me to the whole weird google searches. Today I googled “what kind of tree has golden leaves in North America” because, being someone who didn’t know the difference between a potato (yam) and a sweet potato, I used pine trees for my forest, and apparently they don’t have golden leaves in November. (Yes, I realize how stupid I sound to people who know about plants). Last weekend I googled “what kind of berries are poisonous”, which lead me to “what to do if you eat poisonous berries” and in the end got me to “how to treat fever and dehydration.” Of course, to anyone concerned with children and pets, this type of search probably isn’t a big of a deal.
And then things got weirder…
“What are the side effects of a sword wound.” (Depends on the sword and how sharp/clean it is). “What happens when you decapitate someone?” (You don’t want to know). “How long it takes for a body to decompose.” (Surprising long in the cold, too quick in the heat and humidity). “How hard it is to close a dead person’s eyes?” (I learned that some funeral homes glue the person’s eyes because whatever position they were the rigor mortis kicks in and it’s hard keep them close). “What disease has lumps and small tumors forming on the skin?”. “How quickly would phone lines go dead in a natural catastrophe situation.” “What are the main sources of energy of USA”. “How viruses are named”, followed by “The fates in Greek mythology” (yes, they are related!).
That, and all the searches on guns, gunshot wounds, best bullet to penetrate a skull, what type of weapons guerilla forces have, World War I combat tactics, and other survival tactics (what to eat in the woods, how to hunt, how to skin a deer etc), will probably make me look like at best as a prepper, at worst a possibly unbalanced criminal to Google (and any government collecting my data, I’m sure). They already think I’m a 35 year old male (too many geek searches!), so, I guess that’s just going to seal the deal.
It’s weird how we share knowledge so easily on the internet, and how easy it is to find it. I’m sure my searches are far from the weirdest ones out there (there was gif some time back on porn searches, and… Well), yet there always a result somewhere, somehow, that fits the question. Not always reliable – there’s a lot of guesses/opinions that turn out to be inconsistent, but there’s stuff you wouldn’t even imagine finding without going in person or interviewing specialists. I’m not sure if I’m amazed by this, or scared. Perhaps both.
My next novel is going to be a Paranormal Romance involving ghosts. At first I thought “Well, since it’s a romance, my searches will be about love and cute puppies”. Nope. “Missing person report”, “What’s the police procedure involving an adult missing.” Soon, I’m going to research cults too — that will be a hoot!