Every profession has its hazards, and authoring is no exception. The devil, as they say, is in the detail–to write a great story, you need to touch on those little things that bring a character or a setting to life. Of course, it’s not always that simple. Here are four signs you may have crossed the line… and don’t worry, I qualify for all four!
1. You’re googling things that will put you on a watchlist.
Great stories only happen when things go horribly wrong. I mean, ‘happily ever after’ is fine, but it only works at the end. Before that, you need death, drama and disaster! In the pursuit of a story I’ve googled how to blow up a building, what happens to a corpse after you bury it, and whether it’s possible to ride a llama. (Answer: Yes, but that doesn’t mean you should. Though the guys on the right are playing polo on llamas!) Somewhere, a government agency is probably watching me and drawing some very concerning conclusions about my evil plans.
2. You’re asking socially inappropriate questions.
I have a relative who’s a very skilled ophthalmologist. The other day I emailed him to ask how long it would take someone who’d been trapped in the dark for years to adjust to daylight. Then, a little while later, I remembered to go back and specify that said person was fictional. Hands up if you’ve ever plunged into a line of questioning, then realised you were freaking everyone out?
3. You see daily events in terms of the experience they can offer.
A few months ago I was at the station on my way home from work when I found a young guy who’d passed out. People were just walking on by, so I stopped to help. Later, when the paramedics were assessing him, he woke up and freaked out. As we chased him down and tried to calm him down, he jumped the railing of the balcony and started climbing along the edge, then led us down a staircase. I’ll admit it: a tiny part of my brain was taking ‘chase scene’ notes. (And he was fine in the end, don’t worry. Also, none of us looked this athletic during the chase.)
4. You’re acting it out.
Somebody please tell me I’m not the only one who tries out facial expressions, physical movements, checks whether it’s possible to climb things or abruptly runs out of my study to stare at the exact colour of something, then runs back in. And then somebody please tell me I’m not the only one who’s ever looked up and suddenly realised everybody’s staring at me…
What’s the weirdest (or most awesome) thing you’ve done in the name of research? What would you love to do, if you got the chance?