Sunday, May 13, 2012

Google Me This

Most of us remember the 90's and earlier where you had to actually go to a bookstore or dig out your encyclopedias to research anything.  We have become completely spoiled by the internet and our smart phones and how easy we can find information.  If someone is talking about a song and argues with someone about what year it came out, we simply whip out our iPhone and Google it.  In a matter of seconds you can have the date it was released, the person who sang it, the position it was on the charts and the full lyrics.  I say, thank you internet gods for inventing such a marvelous thing! 

When I started writing in the early 90's I had a hard time referencing real places or historical facts since I only had an encyclopedia from 1970 and it wasn't a good one.  It was difficult writing about different places or people since I didn't have enough information at my fingertips.  I also couldn't drive at the time and didn't want to have to ask my grandmother to take me to the library so that I could write for fun.  It just didn't work.  Now that I'm older and technology has advanced to the point of instant information, I am overjoyed.  I desperately try to use it to my advantage.  Without even getting out of my chair I can search for a type of perfume from 1995 that a teenage girl would have worn...and no I had no personal reference since I was not cool and trendy enough and never wore perfume.  I was clueless. I found out that Angel perfume was popular at the time and it fit perfectly into my story.  Yey Wikipedia!  Don't even get my started on video game references.

The interesting thing about using search engines to aid in my writing is all the different ways I have been able to use it.  Yes, I can search for natural disasters that happened 3000 years ago and I can learn about different geographical locations created by an ice age, but I can also use it to help me design furniture or room layouts.  I'm the type of writer who is good with characters and speeches.  I can do emotions and drama.  My downfall is describing what a room or a landscape looks like.  I'm terrible with interior design and don't know a chaise from a vanity.  Just last night I was try to design my heroine's room and I had to Google a ton of different furniture ideas.  I would have never been able to come up with such elaborate designs without a little help.  Even if I don't always describe them in epic detail, just looking at the image will sometimes help me set up a scene.  I personally hit up the Pottery Barn website to get an idea of what my vampire farmboy's modern apartment would look like.  It gave me so many ideas of how to layout the room that I felt more comfortable writing about it. 

I personally have collected images that remind me of my characters or my locations so that I can rummage through them when I need inspiration.  While I'm a very visual person, I tend to have trouble keeping the images focused in my head.  When I write, I think about the characters actions and words, not necessarily the way they look so I need to go back and look at what photo originally inspired me so that I can create the detail.  My collage of photos makes everything real, allowing me the freedom to create my story. 

If anyone were to look through my browser history they would immediately be concerned.  I know the genre that I'm writing for is dark and there so many different kinds of characters that I am creating that I need a vast array of websites needed.  There are many times when I have to turn to the dark side and learn about less favorable subjects.  I have Googled prisons, insane asylums from the 1800's, cult leaders, and of course Satan.  I have even looked up what is considered to be the first prison in Italy located in Rome.  Some of these subjects would be embarrassing or difficult to research in person.  I like keeping my distance from the asylums since they freak me out.  I'm perfectly happy to let Wiki and Google access the information and keep me safe.

I know people will argue that going to these places and searching through books is the best way to learn about these things, but I'm not writing a historical romance novel but merely sprinkling these things throughout my stories.  Besides, I was in Rome and I don't remember the prison being on the tour, though the building does look vaguely familiar.  (My personal favorite was pulling up pictures of the Colosseum and turning the camera view to get all the sides.  Having been there it was a nice refresher and I enjoyed the detail.)  Also, I'm not going to rummage through furniture stores looking for the perfect chair.  I find that taking a few hours away from what I'm writing to research something outweighs the time taken from writing.  Having pictures of Romanian castles, cliffs in Norway and cabins in Montana have vastly improved my settings and detail so that I can put my characters in interesting a exciting locations.  I wouldn't give it up for anything.

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