Research is a big part of my life and finding information on any topic under the sun is sometimes more fun for me than actually using that information in one of my stories.
Curiosity fuels my mini obsession. Just the other night, a conversation with a friend sparked a hunt for another mutual friend we had both lost touch with. Imagine our surprise when we found out this friend, who had been such a fashion-king in high school, is now a professional clown. Life certainly is ironic.
Everything you need to know is sitting out there just waiting for you to pick it up. With the Internet, information is a mere keystroke away. What is really astounding with the Internet is the amount of information you can find on almost anyone.
Unless you are living way under the radar, you have a trail that anyone with a bit of mad research skills can find. Public court records are a major source for tracking someone down. If you know their name and address, you can find out how bad they have been.
In lieu of court records, online newspapers archives are a rich source for the curious seeker. Internet search engines (Google is my favorite) will hook you up with just about anyone or anything. It astounded me that there were over 4500 references with my real name and over 1700 with my 1-year old pen name.
The bonanza for the info-digger is an obscure political contribution site I stumbled upon a few years ago. Just out of curiosity (my bane), I wondered how many of the Fortune 500 had contributed and who they had contributed to. Imagine my surprise when a number of these records contained home addresses. The only thing stopping someone from abusing this information is the real legal threat of fines and jail time. It’s okay to look, but don’t touch.
How can you really get into your novel when you are writing about places you have never been? Research helps, of course, but the gold ribbon goes to Google Earth. Type in any location and you can pull up a satellite view of the place. If you’re really lucky, you can also get a street view that puts you right there with a 360 degree angle.
If the information you need is not out there, then find a source as close to what you need as you can get. After that, it’s time for your imagination to kick in gear. Just like every myth or urban legend has a grain of truth, imaginative writing needs that little nugget of truth-based fact to be believable in the eyes of the reader.
The need to know about the world around you is crucial to writing. With just an Internet connection, a little imagination, and some mad research skills, you can find whatever treasure you are searching for.
J J Dare is the author of “False Positive” and “False World,”
the first two novels in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy