October 11, 2013

A Writer's Search History

For ages, I've been meaning to share a selection of the odd web searches I've conducted during the creation of this novel. This short list only scratches the surface (and it leaves out the huge number of less weird research queries). Maybe later on I'll go back further into my Google search history and bring you some more examples.

→ "concussion allowed to sleep" - Turns out it's not really true that you have to stay awake if you have a concussion, though it might be a good idea for someone to prod you periodically.

→ "what does vodka smell like" - It seemed particularly silly to search the internet for an answer when I could have done firsthand research by walking downstairs and opening the liquor cabinet. I was lazy. And as with a great many of my research queries, after I spent a while looking for information, I ended up changing the scene so it was no longer needed.

→ "woman crying" - I looked for a video of someone crying (of course there are thousands of these) so that I could play it on my computer, leave the room, close the door, and perform a test of how well it could be heard from the next room.

→ "bulldozer video" followed by "bulldozer rev engine" followed by "verbs for engine sounds" - I was trying to describe the sound accurately. I ended up with "a bulldozer roared to life", which is completely unoriginal, but I'm terrible at this sort of thing.

→ "stacking blocks one year old" - Yes, kids can at that age. This is only one of hundreds of searches related to child development, parenting, and childbirth. It was still a lot easier than firsthand research.

→ "history of car air conditioning" - It grew in popularity during the 1960s - and "air conditioning movie theaters history" - That's been common for longer.

→ "motel curtains" - As I typed this query into the search box, it struck me as combining the bizarre with the uninteresting. I scanned the image search results for a moment and then decided that I wasn't going to use the concept in the story anyway.

→ "red sox schedule 1995" - Here's a case where I might be going overboard on attention to detail, though at least this was very quick to look into, unlike some other questions I obsess over. In a scene set during Labor Day weekend of 1995, I mention that a character might have attended a Red Sox game if he'd stayed in Boston rather than going to San Jose to get the action of the novel going. If the Sox weren't actually home that weekend, would anyone have noticed or cared? Well, it's okay, because they were.

→ "when to make thanksgiving pie" - The day before is fine. I could have asked my in-house consultant, but again, I'm lazy.

→ "how much do employees make in ipos" - Enough.

(Note: It seems like this post should be tagged "querying", but that means something else.)

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Kathy Crowley at Beyond the Margins offers a 12-step program for finding structure in a messy draft: "You recognize that something is missing. Just to be old-fashioned, let's call it structure. Bones. Whatever. Yes, you've written something moving and lovely and it's a work you care about. But still. When you look at it, you are reminded of a jellyfish."


laurenhat said...

I love this whole entry, but especially "combining the bizarre with the uninteresting", the bit about tagging at the end, and the image of you starting up videos of women crying on your laptop and then going out into the hall and shutting the door. (I love the idea of someone somehow accidentally catching you doing this -- I wanted to say "overseeing", but that's a different thing -- and trying to make sense of it.)

Lisa Eckstein said...

I would also like to note that this isn't the only time I've performed a sound test by playing a video, when I wanted to be sure it was realistic that something could be heard under particular circumstances. Internet content is very useful, often in ways nobody ever realized it would be!

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