“Hey, Babe? Will you come here? I want to try something.”
*grins* When my husband hears these words come out of my mouth I think he wants to run and hide. Mostly because it means I’m hip-deep in a fight scene or something equally painful and want to see if a move I’m trying to write will actually work in real life. Or I can’t figure out how to write it and need to try it on someone first.
He’s a good sport though, so most of the time he plays along. And I’m always careful!
This isn’t the only thing you hear in our house. Other gems include – “Do you think that…(insert something impossible here)?” and “How would one – hypothetically – do (something illegal or dangerous)?”
My husband and roommate are good sports and it no longer fazes them when I ask random questions or start discussions about the pattern of arterial blood spray. The same goes with most of my friends, especially ones who work in cool fields like for the coroner’s office. *grins* I didn’t even have to preface my text with “I know this is weird, but what does congealing blood feel like? I figured you’d be the person to ask.”
I love writing science fiction, and part of the reason for that is the research. I wasn’t ever all that great in science classes in school, but I did fairly well and though a lot of things – quantum mechanics, string theory – go right over my head, I think I’ve almost got a grasp on relativity.
Black holes, faster-than-light travel (and all the inherent problems), transparent aluminum, new forms of weaponry. You wouldn’t believe all the cool things that people are working on these days! Most of it right under our noses. I love reading about this stuff, and even more, I love finding ways to work it into my writing in a way that makes it just a little more understandable to the average reader.
Knowledge and research is something I grew up with. One of the common responses in our house growing up to the “What is that?” question was “Go look it up.” *laughs* At first, that meant hitting the gigantic dictionary in the corner or the shelves of encyclopedias. Now it means hopping on Google. My family values knowledge, but even more than that, we value the ability to find out the answer.
Because sometimes it doesn’t matter if you know it or not, the important thing is knowing where to find the answer.
Which brings me to a somewhat contentious point. There’s a lot of discussion about if writers should “write what they know.” Now the bulk of this is really for another post entirely, but I can say here and now that I don’t agree.
I say write what you want. If you don’t happen to know it, you’d damn well better find out what you’re writing about first. Once you do know it, write away! Do it well; do it without apology. There is always a chance you will get it wrong and there’s an almost certainty that someone out there will take great offense to what you’ve written. But if you don’t? What are you missing out on? What chance at knowledge is slipping away from you because you were too scared, or too intimidated to jump headlong into a subject you didn’t know at all? What amazing, brilliant piece of writing just vanished into thin air because you decided to play it safe?
I don’t want to play it safe. I want to learn things and share them with everyone else. There’s little I love more than saying “I don’t know” to a question, followed immediately by “let’s look it up!” And then that fantastic moment of clarity when I’ve just learned something new.
What about you? What crazy, insane things have you researched? Do you think people should just write what they know? Or take a leap and forge into unknown territory?