Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 29 November 2014

Not-So Secret Research

So it could have been embarrassing. I was having a little technical trouble (nothing new there) and hand consigned my fate — and control of my computer — into the hands of some stranger in a call centre on the other side the world.

Nothing new there either; but it just so happened that this time I hadn’t closed all the programs on my computer, let alone the windows on these various programs. It was bad enough, then, that as the cursor whizzed across the screen minimising windows here and there (my blog on whether science is sexy… oh dear) it hesitated and I could almost feel the snigger.

Here’s a thing. You can tell what someone’s thinking when they’re on the other side of the world, when you aren’t talking to them and when you can’t see their face. You’d hardly call it body language but there was an eloquence to the way the cursor twitched when it hovered over the open window in Google Chrome. You know the one. The one that’s open at the article on How to Tell if You’re a Psychopath.

If friendly technician had an ounce of sense he would, of course, immediately have put two and two together and made a writer. But I’m mightily relieved that he didn’t get a look at some of the other things in my browsing history. Apart from betraying my time-wasting devices (What Norse God Are You?) and my hopeless fantasies (PhD Projects in Geology & Geophysics and Atmospheric & Environmental Science) he would, if he hadn’t calculated that simple sum of two plus two correctly, been straight on the phone to the police.

I’m writing romantic suspense, remember. And I don’t (yet) have an encyclopaedic knowledge of crime so I have to look things up. Which is why my browsing history contains searches relating to chloroform and how long you will remain unconscious... other drugs which leave no trace... how you can stab someone so that they bleed a lot yet recover fairly quickly. And so on.

It could have been a lot worse. I’ve always been a little bit wary of the search terms I enter into the internet, which is why my story about the Suffragette and her home-made bomb skimped on the detail and is possibly also why it never got published. I’ve also thought twice  before typing certain things into Google Earth , and I certainly will be if I ever have a plot that includes a raid on Fort Knox.

I know I’m not alone. We writers are a vile, twisted lot. Want to tell me your secrets, list some of the sites you’ve visited in the name of research? Go on — I’d love to hear.

Jennifer Young

8 comments:

  1. Oh, Jennifer, your post did make me laugh. Brilliant! I don't have any stories to match yours. I love the way you could almost feel the snigger.

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    1. Mary, I'm still waiting for the police to call!

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  2. Love the idea of someone finding out all your browsing secrets and wondering what to make of them!

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    1. Those were by no means the worst of my secrets....

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  3. Gosh yes, our inner secrets out there for the crows to pick over! I was researching bastardy orders recently.......ho hum.

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    1. Fascinating subject. I need to get into DNA testing, but that (so to speak) is another story.

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  4. I've always been very careful about searches, Jennifer - but even so, I wouldn't care for someone to pick over my computer! How funny we must be as a profession!

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  5. It's plot in itself. Imagine all the misunderstandings that could arise!

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