I’ve been an active member of National Novel Writing Month since 2007. I have even donated to the program because I think it’s important to support the arts. NaNo nurtures young writers, hopefully on the path of never writing Fan Fiction again. But I digress.
What I find increasingly disturbing on the site is in the forums. Specifically, The Reference Desk. Therein, you can find a wide range of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moments to make your eyes bleed. Now, quite frankly, first-hand experience from someone is a great thing to get for research. I have a document filled with information from a former drug user on the path to getting clean. All the horrid details seared into my brain so that I can method write the character into the shitstorm I’ve creating just for them.
First hand experience, however, only goes so far.
Every year we seem to see the proverbial thread about how human flesh smells.
Oh ,well, I just dragged a body deep in the woods but I burned it with gasoline so it has a different bouquet than if I would have used, say, 5w30 oil. I also experimented with wood infused with sage and lavender oil for a holistic approach. Is that what you’re looking for?
Good gravy, people. Use your imagination! It certainly doesn’t smell like peppermint drops.
I think my main issue with some of the things asked is it feels as if the writer doesn’t want to search the internet or library for some of the answers on their own. Of course I’m a freak and love to dig for research. Unless someone is citing where they got the information or they state–and you’ve got to taken them at their word–that they’ve personally experienced it, how do you know it’s fact not fiction? While I’m sure most writers would agree giving step by step instructions on how to build a bomb isn’t the best thing to do, you have to give a small hint that you know what you’re talking about.
I packed it with marbles and Kaopectate then lit it with a fart that had been brewing in my ass for two weeks. I blew that power plant to smithereens!
History is by far my favorite research point because it has so many applications. I have found countless articles online on certain subjects. I always look for more than one so that I have two sources stating the same thing. Wikipedia is a good start but references there have to be checked as well. I have a good book collection as well to thumb through when the internet fails me. Of course my local library has just expanded so I know they’ll have treats galore now.
I have even visited a library on vacation to get local lore for a potential story.
The best source of information is always going to be to visit a location, if you can. Want to know how a police station works? Call and get an appointment to talk to someone about it. Explain what you are writing about. Go to a local shooting range and ask questions. Don’t burrow yourself into the wealth of knowledge on the internet. Unless you’re a master at Google-Fu, some things are going to be hard to reference.
I read it on the internet, it must be true!
Get to it, aspiring writers. You get nothing by sitting and everything by doing.