Research

Beyond the ‘Net

A Chrome search for the phrase, “Glabelhammies trend higher,” on Google returns the notice that, “Your search – Glabelhammies trend higher – did not match any documents.” The same search on Internet Explorer’s Bing returns 15,200,000 results, none of which has anything whatsoever to do with Glabelhammies. Billions of web pages without a single mention of Glabelhammies and Google knows it – that’s impressive. When researching a story element, Chrome & Google do a good job of focusing on the element being researched.

For scenics, nothing beats Google Earth’s ability to show you the scene being described. This is important for writers who haven’t been there and for readers who have. Especially if you want the reader to remain immersed in the story when your character stands somewhere famous and looks around. Millions of book readers have been in Times Square, so, better Google it with Street View before you describe it. Nevertheless, Google Earth will not show where the Glabelhammies trend.

The basic limit to Internet research is exactly what makes it so useful. The ‘Net contains existing knowledge. To go beyond existing knowledge, try good old fashioned primary research. Primary Research means collecting information that does not yet exist. There are three basic approaches.

Observation is the key to seeing real life. Details caught by your eye the way you see things can help your writing show what no other writer has and make your story original.

Explore anything new that pops into your head. Accept your creativity and mentally walk into the unknown to develop an idea.

Construct new story elements. Give the reader something they’ve never read by first researching all the old ways that a part of the story has already been told. (Use the Internet) Then get imaginative.

Of course, we already know all of this. The useful question here is “how.” How do we observe real life, how do we explore creative ideas and how do we construct new story elements?

How do you, yourself, collect information that does not yet exist? Anything you can share in the comments below may help others. I know I benefit by learning from other writers. Thank you!

Standard
About Writers, Research

IDK

OKAY, let’s get the (explanatory) blonde joke out of the way.
“This blonde girl asked me what ‘IDK’ stood for. I said I don’t know. She said, ‘OMG, no one seems to.'”

She was, of course, right about a lot of things. If there were a Medieval map of the Internet, vast areas would be marked “IDK” for voids and “Here There Be Dragons” for misinformation. We don’t know a lot of things.

But don’t blame the Internet. History is riddled with gaps and untruths, eye witnesses get it wrong and experts grind their own axes. We never really knew all the facts. The problem is that now the Internet is widely accepted as the fact-checker. The Encyclopedia Britannica has been replaced by Wikis.

Not that this matters so much to creative writers. We seek truth, not facts. Information changes but truth only varies within the constancies of human behavior. The great themes of literature haven’t changed since Enheduanna wrote about lovers among the reeds along the Euphrates River thousands of years ago. Only the settings change, like the scene in time travel movies where the traveler remains fixed against a background of civilizations changing, falling and rising. Aren’t unchanging human truths what really matter?

We need facts to anchor our fiction. Do our “facts” have to agree with what readers find on the Internet?

I don’t know. I’m a writer. I make stuff up.

Standard