Woes of Researching

I love researching facts and interesting points of obscure history.  It’s fun and useful, but it can also be a trap.

It’s been both this week as I research and continue to add to my novel.  For example, at one point I was writing about my story’s hero hiking through the woods.  I thought, one obstacle he could face is blisters. Which got me thinking about shoes.

Now most of us just go to the store and buy shoes.  That’s not so easy in my novel’s world as it is recovering from a number of disasters that have left my hero in a place that doesn’t have a shoe factory.

So I opened up a ton windows in my browser and started checking stuff out.  First what are shoes made of?  Some are leather, some rubber, and some an unknown material know only to chemical companies.  It seemed reasonable to assume that leather would be a likely material as you can get that from animals.

But, it turns out that you just don’t kill a cow and cut bits up for shoes. The hides have to be tanned – a process that can happen in many ways.  I discovered at least four different methods.  Two methods are possible in my world and a third probable if I can just find a source for chromium sulfate.  Let me assure you that the YouTube videos on the subject are not pleasant to watch – at least the one I started to watch seemed like it was heading that way.

Sadly, the central California coastal area seems to lack chromium mines, wells, pits or where ever the stuff comes from, so it’s likely my hero’s boots are likely tanned using tannins from the tan oak trees that are native to the area.

Naturally, after all that research, I decided that my hero’s journey was really being slowed down because he twisted his ankle after falling over a rock – way more dramatic than a blister.

And so it goes, three words to an hour of research.  At this rate my book will be completed sometime around 2032.

I have to cut this essay short as I need to confirm the probability of a 9.1 earthquake with a resulting tsunami in the Santa Barbara Channel within the next 200 years.  The right answer gets me two whole sentences in my novel.

Till next week,

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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31 Responses to Woes of Researching

  1. All I can say (as I clamber out of yet another internet rabbit-hole) is, I feel your pain! What an excellently witty way to complain about it, at least!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This might not be the most expedient way to write a novel, but it certainly seems like the best. Fuck the clock. Keep at it, and God speed you past that bastard Chronos, who only eats his children, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha! At least you’re learning interesting things in the process!


  4. Glynis Jolly says:

    Now you have me wondering how the Native Americans did it, especially the ones who were more nomad in nature like the Sioux. All of their clothing was hides.


  5. I never fail to get myself buried beneath reams of ‘paper’ when I research, though I try to avoid too much detail as background to my writing – but still the processes must be observed and can be very painstaking. Then I watch (for a while; I changed channels before the end) a film that predicates upon the proposition that a ‘fast-moving glacier’ is capable of travelling south at high speed from Iceland and gobbling up the entire Northern Hemisphere! A glacier throwing a hissy fit and chucking great ice boulders at our hero and heroine – no better way for them to work out the problems with their deteriorating marriage as they make their escape along roads miraculously empty and devoid of snow on the driving surface. No-one in sight – just them and the snow-plow, presumably..
    I wonder, then, at the value of all that research. Can we get away with simply suspending all unbelief in the first chapter? we can tell our readers anything after that.


    • That’s a good question – when building a world at what point does an author try suspending unbelief? I am still at a point in my thinking that I’ve not quite worked that out, but I am close.


  6. Barb Knowles says:

    What an awesome post. I feel that way about genealogy. One piece of info leads to another and to another and to another. Then has to be verified. Of course, I get easily sidetracked by something tangential to what I’m really looking for……Not exactly the same as what you’re doing, but lots of effort researching for small gain.


  7. Debra says:

    Oh, Andrew, I think we are kindred souls! I remember when I was writing a Master’s thesis and my committee chair called me in and told me it was time to stop researching, and WRITE! Once I’m onto a question I leave no research stone unturned. Maybe you need a committee to take turns reminding you to step away from the research, and get writing! But I do completely understand. 🙂


  8. Greg Merritt says:

    Brain tanning. An animals brain is almost always large enough to tan that animals hide. Don’t ask me how I know that, just do one more Google search. 🙂


  9. I feel your pain! I sat through hours of YouTube videos to get things right in my novel, only to cut most of it.


  10. ljlhannah says:

    Research can take a long time but it definitely pays off when your story is both interesting and makes sense. I am the kind of reader that would question how a character got a pair of New Balance sneakers in the woods. I do appreciate the time it takes and how it slows down your writing but it will make your book better so it’s a good trade-off. Happy writing and researching!


  11. We are so much alike. I would do that too–and consider it a day well-spent! What fun! I have a tsunami in my novel, too, so I put several hours of research into how high they get, how far inland they travel, what signs animals have that it’s arriving, that sort. Fascinating stuff.


  12. dorannrule says:

    Just think of all the invaluable info you are gathering. I will consult you instead of Google! Can’t wait to read your novel. 😊


  13. 9.1?…come big or don’t bother showing up. Ask the folks in Sumatra.


  14. jfwknifton says:

    Don’t forget though, you’re not necessarily writing for a PhD reunion meeting. Sound authoritative and you will be!


  15. jennypellett says:

    I think research is most of the fun…it leads down so many unexpected paths!


  16. PiedType says:

    Good grief. Remind me not to start another novel. (I tried it once back in the ’70s and flamed out somewhere in the middle.)


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