Ever typed into Google search “how does poison effect the body?” or “where can you stab someone so it won’t kill them, and preferably they can get over it in ten minutes and get in another fight, but will injure them and make them lose lots of blood?” . . . then you might be a writer.
I find myself on some weird internet pages. I’ve spent hours reading forms where people argue about what ancient weaponry was the most efficient so I can outfit various armies accordingly (turns out, swords aren’t all that great. But the English Longbow – just ask a weaponry fanboy/girl about it). I also end up reading about herbs all the time, which ones heal or kill or have some mystical connection. And of course, there’s tons of searches on injuries, wilderness survival, battle tactics, how long a wound bleeds for . . . Lots of poison. I seem to like that one.
Anyways, searching Pinterest and Google Images showed me that I’m not alone. Many writers look at their internet history and think “how come the government isn’t knocking on my door yet?” Of course, everything I look up is . . .well, out of style. I can’t imagine how mystery writers’ search histories look, or thrillers. That’s got to include government building layouts and different sniper rifle types. Not a good combination.
Anyways, here’s 4 reasons I spend the time looking stuff up that I normally wouldn’t.
1.) Ignoring over Ignorance: If I add a detail like not pulling an arrow out, but leaving it in to keep the bleeding down, then it shows that I have done the research and that I’m choosing which laws to follow and which to suspend because the worlds I write in don’t follow the same laws. So when said character gets back up and fights without much recovery time in the middle readers are more willing to suspend disbelief because I showed I know what was realistic, which makes the non-realistic an active choice for the story’s sake.
2.) Character versus Author Knowledge: I have NO clue how to heal an arrow injury. But, if I add in a few details that I research on the internet (and you always have to get answers from more than one source), then it will seem like my character, who’s supposed to be a healer, does know how to heal an arrow wound.
3.) Staying in the Story: Thanks to all my research, I know that cupping your hand on the bottom of a gun is an incorrect way to hold it. I read magna all the time where these sharp-shooters hold the gun wrong (not to pick on magna, but I don’t watch many action movies). At best, I feel smug for knowing something someone else didn’t, at worst, it rips me from the story and/or I can’t take the character seriously (which goes back to reason #2).
4.) Believability: Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it or if I should just make it all up. What herb cures headaches, well Mudrootikus of course! But I think I put in the effort that I do for believability. Sure, my characters can have magic battles and fight despite injuries that would, in real-life, take them out for months. But if you’re world is too strange, there’s nothing to anchor the reader (unless that’s what you’re trying to do). Adding a bit of realism goes a long way.
So even if it seems like a waste of time at times, or it seems weird, I think looking up those facts is worthwhile. What stuff do you find yourself researching? Did I miss any reasons you spend time researching for your stories?