The Rabbit Hole of Research

It’s bloody great fun to fall down the rabbit hole of research. One of my favourite parts of writing is the conception stage, where you get to play fast and loose in the land of what-if. You know, collect shiny things, see how they fit together, woolgather and generally daydream about a topic.

When I was a little boy, I used to love poring through all sorts of books, encylopedias, whatever was lying around. I remember jumping from factoid to factoid, and used to love learning little bits of everything. Outside of pub trivia and writing, this sort of scatter-brain learning doesn’t have much practical use. Luckily I’ve parked my bum behind a keyboard once or twice (and pub trivia’d with the best of them).

And even now, one of my happiest joys is to faff around on Wikipedia or similar, rolling around in knowledge like a dog in poop. It’s almost like a game that I play with my own mind, where everything in a made-up scenario has to comply with its own logic. When I was writing the zombie novellas for Black House Comic’s After the World series (that have been repurposed into my novel Quiver, which is on sale here – wow, see what I did there!) I was a research NERD. I’m serious, I think I’ve learnt more about England, southeastern USA, the US military, Cuba, golf-carts, the English correctional system and about 1000 other things than I ever needed to know. In one instance, I needed to know where one of the characters lived in Gravesend, Kent. To get this information, I had to look up teacher salaries, and real estate, and figure out roughly what sort of house this man could realistically afford, and what would be a nice area to raise a family. This was all to get a street name, which I used ONCE.

This is an essential part of my what-if process – grab many disparate elements, find a way they fit together, and follow that thought for as far as it can go. Before you know it, you’ve got yourself a story sunshine :-)

Of course there’s more to writing than just the outlining/conception phase, but by Jove’s bearded toothbrush, that’s the most fun bit for me.

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