The Importance of Earnest Research

Suggested by a question this morning on Twitter from Darlene Quinn (@DarleneQuinn) about what is the strangest thing you’ve ever researched for a story, I thought I’d mention a couple of the things I’ve been digging for on the internet that could get Homeland Security breathing down my neck. Yanno, just for fun.

Some of you may remember the vampire novel I was working on (which has been quietly stewing for the last few months, untouched). I’ve got a scene in there where the female protag gets drugged, but I needed to find a drug that would cause certain symptoms. Most people are familiar with the name ‘rohypnol’, aka ‘roofies’ as the date-rape drug, but apart from the obvious unconsciousness and memory-wrecking, I needed some other side effects. As far as I can find, rohypnol is not the drug I need. So I’m still looking up nasty, distasteful drugs.

Secondly, I’m working on a post-apocalyptic short story. In this there’s going to be some fire-power, so I’m researching guns. Wait, you’re saying, you were in the military, why do you not know this stuff? Well, in my rate (job) in the Navy, I had infrequent contact with firearms of any sort. About all I was ever required to do was carry a .45 as a sidearm during a roving security patrol. I shot three rounds on a .45 in boot camp, never fired another weapon. So I have a lot of learning to do. And here’s the thing.

I thought I was making up a name for a handgun for my protagonist to use. I was using part of the name of a telescope design and tagging on a number. Off the top of my head I came up with “Mak-90” (Mak coming from Maksutov, a design patented in 1941 by the Russian optician, Dmitri Dmitrievich Maksutov. The “90” was sort of arbitrary, I don’t know why I chose that). Well, guess what? There is such a thing as MAK-90, only it’s not a small handgun/sidearm, it’s a Chinese version of the AK-47 (Modified AK-1990). Not the sort of thing you slip into a side holster on your hip. Now, granted, the story is set in the future and I could probably get away with calling it that, except that there’s bound to be someone who’s up on their weaponry and might call ‘bullsh!t’. I don’t know at this point exactly how much detail the story will need, but it’s got to be more than just “He pulled out his gun and started firing.” Since it’s a PA setting, someone will definitely get around to opening up a can of whoop-ass at some point so my intrepid hero needs to be fully prepared and well-armed.

I must say I’ve been getting quite the education in modern warfare and all kinds of things that might be useful, post-apocalypse. I only hope the Feds don’t put me on the ‘no-fly’ list now. (everybody wave ‘hi’ to Homeland Security).

Isn’t research fun?

16 thoughts on “The Importance of Earnest Research

    1. I really can’t think of what the weirdest thing I’ve researched would be. Everything I look up on the Internet is pretty weird 😛

      May have to ponder a bit


      1. I just wonder how far I should go in my research. For instance, should I join the local gun club and start hanging out at the firing range to get first-hand experience? 😉


      2. Yeah… artistic integrity takes a back seat to my personal safety. I have no intention of shooting myself to get the full effect of a fire-fight.


  1. I was going to suggest going to the local firing range/gun club and seeing if you can chat somebody up who doesn’t sound too crazy. Or maybe some kind of gun-enthusiast message board? You could scan the various boards to see which one has the smallest number of kooky survivalists.

    Your other choice is to find the bar or the gym in your town where the cops hang out, and ask them!


  2. The message boards seem the safest choice 🙂 I have to remind myself it’s only a short story, I don’t need extensive information. I tend to over-research.


    1. Hah, ok, now I don’t feel so bad 🙂

      The new pic is from the Temperance card in the Amano Yoshitaka tarot (or Yoshitaka Amano, not sure which way it’s supposed to be. Everything is in Japanese, can’t read the book!)


  3. Thanks! Not sure it’s final, I may still try a few others on for size. And you know me. It’ll probably be the usual eclectic mix of topics here 😉


  4. I’ve often wondered what would happen if someone was working on a crime novel when someone close to them disappeared. Their computer would have all these searches for ways to kill someone and get away with it.


  5. Hi Deana,

    I know, right? 🙂 When I saw Dan Wells (author of “I Am Not a Serial Killer” and “Mr. Monster”) at his signing at Powells here, he mentioned that early on when he was researching serial killers, there were people he tried to interview to get information from who refused to speak with him. Now that he’s a published author of course it’s all changed, but early on they probably just thought he was some freak with a fixation on serial killers.


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