What happened to Alice when she went down the rabbit hole? A lot of things she never expected. Some good, some bad. Some Johnny Depp.... Not that I'm all that thrilled with all that make-up on Johnny. I like my Depp where I can recognize him. Though I could probably write a whole post just about Johnny Depp, this isn't it.
But it's about discovering the unexpected. Like a lot of writers, I do quite a bit of research for my stories. I happen to love research and at times, I've gotten caught up in the trap. I definitely want my stories, characters and settings to ring true. I've used Google Earth to look at a particular neighborhood to see what it's like in order to accurately describe a setting. I've checked real flight schedules to make sure my characters leave and arrive at accurate times, and stopover where they should. That's all fairly mundane, and maybe a bit more than necessary, but I try to avoid putting in something wrong that will pull a knowledgeable reader out of the story.
For those details, I've learned to wait until the story is mostly finished before fleshing out the specifics. The danger is finding something in the course of research that takes me away from the story and onto a path of wanting to learn more about something than I need, and never getting back to the writing. That's happened far too often.
I'm currently working on a story where one character is a museum curator and his ex-boyfriend, rumored to be a jewel thief, shows up at a new exhibit opening. In order to write the story I had to do some background research. I found so many interesting topics that totally changed the characters and the way I ended up structuring the story. From just researching museum thefts and jewel heists, which involved watching some great old films in addition to a lot of reading. I totally recommend a charming little heist film called GAMBIT from 1955 (if you can find it!). Then I came upon the issue of stolen antiquities and returning items to the country of origin. The art world is a hotbed of controversy and even the directors of some of the top museums are part of the problem, not the solution. This has been a very big issue most lately with items looted from Iraq's museums. Some of the missing items are among the oldest known antiquities. Fascinating stuff. Now I have enough story to fill a novel, when my editor is expecting a novella, on a novella schedule.
So, while this time I won't be able to use everything I've discovered, I can say that my two main characters are definitely going to be showing up again, with some bigger issues to tackle. That's the lucky fallout from my latest trip down the research rabbit hole.
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