Saturday, August 2, 2008

Research This

Just off the top of your head, do you have any idea how much arsenic it would take to murder another human being? How about gas explosions? Know how to rig a gas stove so that some poor slob's house goes up with him inside it?

If not, don't feel too badly; I'm guessing most people don't know the answers to those questions, either. I certainly don't. At least, I didn't, until I had reason to research them because I wanted to use them in a story.

The gas explosion thing, though, I scrapped, because it turns out that gas stove manufacturers have, for decades, been equipping their products with nearly foolproof valves that shut the gas off before a serious explosion can take place. Good for you, bad for me, at least in terms of writing about murder and mayhem.

The point is, most of the really good ways to kill and maim people are foreign to the majority of us, and thank God for that. It could get really messy if people went around solving their day to day disputes by poisoning or shooting or blowing each other up. But if you want to write about that stuff, you have to learn some things that, in many cases, you might be better off not knowing, and that's where research comes in.

Research is like the root canal of writing - if you need it, you really have to do it, even though it might not be very pleasant. So, inside the digital brains of my computer, the funny-looking wafer-things that I will never understand how they can hold so much information - or any information at all, for that matter - is all sorts of incriminating stuff that will look very bad for me if my house ever blows up or if something untoward happens to anyone I know.

For the novel I'm going to start soon, I am currently checking out Stinger missiles and how they are transported. Now I'm paranoid, because if a real shipment of Stinger missiles gets hijacked from a real truck, I'm afraid some enterprising FBI agent will stumble upon this blog and pin everything on me!

Fortunately for me, the number of people reading this blog numbers in the...well...several, so the odds are pretty slim that any FBI agent, enterprising or otherwise, is reading this, but you never can tell. I sure hope they guard that stuff better than they're going to in my book.

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