So the other day on Twitter I asked the #amwriting community what were some of the craziest things they had to research for their books. The responses were both fascinating and entertaining, to say the least.
@whatshewrote nuclear power plant, flower stands, the 1970's, and drug dealing.— amber H (@AmberAHall) April 21, 2015
@whatshewrote This WIP has been fairly straightforward: Stasi, CIA, Octopi, Baltic Mythology, Massacre at Novgorod, & historical eccentrics— Lana Wood Johnson (@muliebris) April 21, 2015
@whatshewrote hmm biological warfare in the Dark Ages and Siberian legends— Jessica Rubinkowski (@JessRubinkowski) April 21, 2015
@whatshewrote the interior of a concert venue in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. I still can't believe I found it.— Jennifer Lee (@jeneralee) April 21, 2015
@whatshewrote How to make different types of bombs & which are the most effective; blueprints for a popular Chicago tourist attraction; etc.— Julia Byers (@Julia_Byers) April 21, 2015
All this to say, I decided to take a break from talking about How To Write Things and list some of the crazy stuff I had to research for the three WIPs that have occupied my writerly time these past two years.
1. The Grande Armeé's cannon horse color coordination
2. How seats are numbered at Turner Field in Atlanta
3. Qing Dynasty Chinese marriage traditions
4. The history of Hebrew Lexiconography
One of these, basically.
5. Hawaiian leprosy colonies
Moloka'i colony in the 1880s
6. How to fold a letter in the Regency Era
Now I just need to know how to read it! Diagonal, backwards, and across, all to save paper.
7. Hurling (which is a pretty awesome sport)
8. 1920s slang
Some of my favorites are "booshwashing" (chatting uselessly), and "drugstore cowboy" (a guy who hangs around the street dressed up looking for a girl)
9. How to wreck a steam engine effectively
10. The Tailteann Games
The Tailteann Games were the Ancient Irish Olympics, though they pre-dated the Olympics by far. In the 1920s the Games had a hugely popular but sadly short-lived revival.
11. The history of the can-can
Well, can you?
12. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
13. If Benedictine monasteries take mail
According to the original order, nope.
14. Tsunami wave patterns
Turned out to be a whole lot more complicated than I thought.
16. Insane child monarchs
This is Peter III of Russia, better known as Catherine the Great's husband. His favorite past time was to play war with his pet rats.
17. Luddite Rebellion
18. Trestle bridge construction
19. Cowboy boots
21. Pirate code (which ruined parts of Pirates of the Caribbean for me the first time I watched it)
22. What time of year it's safe to hike Mount Fuji. Also, the haunted forests around it.
23. Grab and go slave auctions
As if they weren't bad enough. Someone would fire a gun and the buyers would run in and snatch the first slave they wanted.
24. Chinese water torture
25. How to brew poteen, negus, and vodka
Poteen = Irish potato moonshine. Negus = spiced wine, AKA Regency Era equivalent of Starbucks. Vodka = well, vodka.
26. How soon to RSVP to a Regency Era ball
Do it ASAP.
27. Celtic cattle raids
Celts took their raids seriously. Really seriously. This is Cu Chulainn. In the Irish fable The Cattle Raid of Cooley, nearby Queen Medb decides she wants Cu's buddy's bull and launches a massive war against him where hundreds of people die... all for a bull.
28. Pre-Roman cosmetics
Ground beetle shells and berry juice, anyone?
29. The wattage level of a room full of candles
Only about 15 watts, apparently.
30. Thai noodle carts
31. How to creel spinning mules, and what type of grease was used on the machine
Watch your fingers. Creeling is taking the empty bobbins off and replacing them. Spinning mules were greased with vegetable fat.
32. The Taiping Rebellion's Heavenly Army
Included divisions especially for women and children
33. The Carol of the Bells
The original Ukrainian song was about spring, and included lyrics about lambs, flowers, and birds flying through your window.
34. The Georgia Aquarium's Dolphin Show room's layout
35. Russian thunder god totem poles
Yeah, don't ask.
There you go.
What are some crazy things you've had to research?