There are several reasons I write mainly science fiction and fantasy, most of which can be summed up thusly: The dragons. The aliens. The alien dragons.
But honestly? There’s also the fact that I totally hate research, you guys.
Okay, maybe it’s not actually the research itself that I hate. I’ve certainly written enough research papers in my life. In general, I like learning things.
No, what I don’t like about doing research for stories is the potential to be wrong.
How many times have you watched a television show about a profession with someone who actually works in that profession? Now tell me – how did that work out for you? Because I don’t know about you, but my mom the doctor permanently turned me off House and basically every medical show ever. Scrubs only barely survived because it’s already ridiculous, and because of Dr. Cox. But mostly Dr. Cox.
Still, this made my mom SO HAPPY
So writing a story that necessitates research is an exercise in anxiety, and thus I’ve decided to stay in the realm of entirely made up things, where I can’t possibly be wrong, because I made it up. How do you know if the snarkleblag mates only in frigid temperatures during the third full moon on planet FrakkinCold? You don’t because guess what? A snarkleblag is not a real creature and planet FrakkinCold is not a real place! Shocking, I know.
Except that…well, um, no. You still do tons of research with speculative fiction.
The difference is that the research is weird.
Like, really weird.
Like the time I Google imaged a bunch of pictures of sharks because I was writing a short story with a central character (okay, actually the love interest) who was a talking shark in a space suit full of water who lived on a desert planet. I needed to be able to describe the shark’s face, but the more research I did, the more I realized that true fact there are actually all kinds of sharks you guys. So then I had to decide what kind of shark he was. And all the trivia facts about sharks ever.
Or there was the time I was writing SPIDER AND BRIAR, which is essentially a story about a haunted castle where little girls have been sacrificed to a demon-like monster for centuries and centuries. The monster eats them, but more like their soul, which leaves the body behind. So now I’m researching things like the decomposition of bodies but also the decomposition of dresses, because I have this idea that the main character, who is spared by the monster, might wear their dresses since she doesn’t have any other clothes. And yes cloth basically doesn’t really decay, at least not at the rates that bodies do, so my main character can totally have the most morbid wardrobe ever.
Similarly, the short story that’s trapped on a computer for which I don’t have the power chord (and yes I just linked to the post behind this one, because it’s my blog and I can cry if I want to) is about a little girl whose sailor dad drowns at sea, but she sees his ghost every year on her birthday. Except that I want him to resemble his actual decaying corpse, because I’m gross like that, so now I’m researching the general rate at which bodies decompose under water.
This should tell you two things about me: 1) I’m gross, and 2) I would be totally screwed if I were to wind up on the wrong end of a murder investigation and the police confiscated my computer. By the way, this is the entire conceit of Castle.
More recently, and much more cheerfully, yesterday I was working on the prologue of KtLO. So basically the main character, who is a kid at this point, has a female friend his age who doesn’t have a very good home life. And she’s always talking about running away and of course my main character wants to go with her because he has a crush on her and peer pressure and all that fun stuff. So he has a backpack packed for the occasion hidden under his bed, with a toothbrush and toothpaste and toilet paper and seventeen dollars and a baseball bat (for protection) and all the Poptarts he could possibly fit.
For the sake of creating humor by being ridiculously specific, I wanted to put down how many Poptarts you could fit in a backpack that also has those other things. And I kid you not – I actually thought about filling a backpack with all those items (which would necessitate buying a baseball bat somewhere) and getting as many Poptarts at the grocery store as possible and then seeing how many would fit in that backpack. And pretty much the only thing that stopped me from performing this experiment in the name of art was the fact that it was a throwaway detail in a throwaway line in a throwaway paragraph in a prologue that I might not even keep because apparently the writing world thinks prologues are evil. And also all the weird looks I would get at the grocery store.
But if it was something integral to the story?
I would totally do it, you guys.
And then I would eat all the Poptarts.
ALL OF THEM
So I guess my point is that – research? Kind of unavoidable. And when you’re writing science fiction and fantasy, almost entirely impossible to predict.
Also, posting a clip from Scrubs made me realize that there is a dearth of Scrubs and Dr. Cox on this blog. To remedy this:
What weird things have you researched in the name of art?
WARNING – copious amounts of TV Tropes linkage contained herein! You have been warned.
Originally, I was going to write about first paragraphs today. But yesterday I happened to catch Amber West’s Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – and apparently it was worth watching Castle. I watched two episodes and now I’m hooked.
Even though I’d already decided – based on a random episode here or there – that Castle was Not My Thing. I had many reasons for staying away from Castle, chief among them mourning for Captain Mal (Nathan Fillion’s character in the kickass Firefly) and also the fact that I thought it was Bones 2.0. By the way, I happen to love Bones, except that I thought it was silly at first too.
Judging by this picture, I’m not the only one who sees similarities – although I admit that plucky couples solving mysteries is hardly a reinvention of the wheel
Right now though, I’m liking Castle so much that I’m wondering how I could ever think it was not for me. In fact, I have a feeling that after a few more viewings it’s going to fast turn into My Favorite Thing.
The thing is, I do this a lot. If someone wanted to bet on my life, they would have three sure bets: 1) I will always pour lots of sugar into my coffee and/or tea, 2) I will trip on something, and 3) Whatever show/movie/book I loudly proclaim to hate today will turn out to by my favorite show by tomorrow.
Here are some shows where my first impression was the wrong impression:
When I first caught a glimpse of Doctor Who, I was like – what is this low budget goofy weirdness bringing down my beloved sci fi genre? I thought David Tennant over-acted, too.
Now I think Tennant’s a genius, that the goofy weirdness is a breath of fresh air, and that the low budget forces them to be creative with their scripts in ways that would benefit a lot of over-budgeted American stuff.
When I first saw Psych, I thought it was decently funny but that Shawn, the main character, was obnoxious.
Now I think it’s one of the most hilarious things on television, and Shawn is one of my favorite characters on television: an overgrown man-child who is strangely charismatic, who can be the Chess Master when he feels like it, and who is refreshingly free of angsty dramatic trauma – his biggest problem is that his parents divorced and he’s still not over it, which is sad in a way, but also relatable.
When I first saw Lost, back during the fever of the first season when it was big Big BIG? I got confused because I missed episodes, which left a bad taste in my mouth.
Then, a couple years ago, I sat down and watched the series in the proper order (a rare feat for me), and now it’s one of my favorite television shows of all time, even the parts that frustrate a lot of people.
I could go on and on and on. I do this with television, movies, books, music. It seems that I’m destined to love what I hate.
Am I just judgmental? But there are tons of shows that I give a chance even when most people turn up their noses – like Haven, which I think is under-appreciated in the critical world.
Eric Balfour judges you for judging him
Am I just bad at first impressions? My judgement is usually good in other arenas of life. Or maybe it’s just bad to judge a book by its cover – which I tend to do since, being a child of the digital media age, something has to grab my attention immediately or we’re a done deal.
Or maybe – and here’s the psych student coming out in me – maybe I subconsciously avoid the things that I know will really hook me. (Never said I was a good psych student, just that I was one.) So that I can have, you know, a life and stuff. Although there’s also stuff like White Collar and Suits, which I’ve been on board with from day one.
Dreamy men in fancy suits helped