Follow the Yellow Brick Road or Poppies... Poppies...

This week's theme is Research and I'm currently in the process of researching how to handle separation anxiety in goat dogs (see photo). (Yes, those were feather couch pillows)

Seriously, research is one of the BEST THINGS EVER about being a writer. It's an open ended adventure down a road to discover new plot twists, specific details and unusual characters. You may eventually get to Oz (and finishing the WIP), but you'll definitely discover a few tangent poppy fields along the way. Research on a writing project allows me to become a "pseudo expert" on anything and everything that interests me. It's the total excuse for attention issues,but you might be surprised what people will tell you when you lead with, "I'm writing a book and was just wondering what it's like to be a ... fireman...or bartender...or cab driver...or tight rope walker."

My favorite research writing story happened about fifteen years ago. I was writing a mystery where the main character was involved in an internet dating site. At that time, was not a household word and very few women were on the Internet. I was single and decided the best way to learn about Internet dating sites was to post an ad. So I wrote one from the perspective of the main character (and me) which was to be included in Chapter Two of the book. I followed all the directions carefully, posted the ad, and left for a business trip. I had no idea what to expect. Later that night in a Chicago hotel, I logged onto the site to find I had received over two hundred responses in the span of a few hours. Everything from "I'm seventeen and still live with my parents. I hope you don't mind." (I did) to "just ignore the woman in the picture. She's no longer around." (He had attached his wedding photo!) Just reading the responses was quite the story. The Internet mystery I was writing never fully developed, but that little research side trip did end up in LOTS of potential characters that are still populating stories and even led to a marriage (mine).

Another poppy filled sidetrack involved my research for a mystery where the victims are killed by arrows through the heart. It seemed somehow poetic, but I didn't know anything about arrows and archery. The result, however, was a seriously freaked out sporting goods employee who didn't quite know how to answer all my questions about how I might kill someone with a bow and arrow. What KIND of bow? What would the wound LOOK like? etc. etc. He eventually came around and a snippet of the resulting information is included in the paragraph below:

The pine needles crunched quietly beneath his booted feet, the only sound in the new night, as he walked away from the white sheet of paper suspended in mid air. He turned slowly to face the target, drawing an arrow out of the quiver, and raised the Hoyt Deviator bow - nocking the arrow in place. Bringing the bow to full draw, he felt the back of his hand brush against the consistent, unchanging bone structure of his face. His nose lightly touched the bowstring as he settled his breathing by sheer willpower and he felt his heart begin to slow, just the way he had taught himself to do. His body was in harmony with every sound - every light push of the wind around him - and he waited for every pause in the beating of his own heart for the exact moment to loose the arrow. He exhaled half way into the cool night air, and then, with ever increasing back tension on the string, his fingers opened and the arrow took flight - sailing swiftly and effortlessly through the air -cutting through the paper smoothly to find the target beyond.

Research nurtures the discovery part of the writing process. Yes, it can definitely be a procrastination tool and a distraction, but it's just so much fun!

To prove it, here are just a few of the random things I've recently researched:
Acting Lessons
Male Teen Age Models
Trail maps in the National Forest
Internet security
Trees of East Texas
Water Moccasins
Musical Lyrics
Clothes from Gossip Girl episodes
Favorite Female Baby Names
Chemistry Experiments Gone Wrong

So, enjoy the research poppies and if anyone knows a goat whisperer (or wants a dog???) let me know.

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