The writer’s journey isn’t completely composed of making characters and places and worlds out of thin air. That’s a very big part of it. But to create a book—any book—a writer needs to research.
Typical research involves reading first- or secondhand accounts of things. Wikipedia is nice. So are books, but I’d rather pull up a website on the computer I’m already using than take a trek to the local library. (Especially since my local library is undergoing renovations. The temporary building has eight parking spaces and is about the size of a double-wide trailer.)
But I’m not here to tell you how to write a research report. We’re talking about novels here. We’re talking about life-altering, mind-consuming, soul-exciting books. I’m not basing all of my research on other peoples’ work. I’m sure as heck going to go overboard.
And looking back at my pair of nalbound mittens and my handmade spindles, I’m sure as heck I have gone overboard.
Let me explain.
Extreme research isn’t for everyone. Not all authors can visit the cities their books are set in, or learn their characters’ accents, or take up recreational woodworking because their protagonist is a carpenter. Not at all. But I’m pretty sure that most authors, at one point or another, have tried to do something their characters do on a regular basis.
And I’m not just talking about book writers. I’ve been told that the people who work for Pixar tried walking in tennis shoes nailed to boards while animating Toy Story to learn how the toy soldiers would walk. Disney animators also donned skirts and walked through knee-deep snow before making Frozen, and everyone who worked on How to Train Your Dragon got flying lessons. I’m pretty sure that some of the animators even went skydiving. I’m glad I’m not an animator.
And looking back at all those people, I’ve convinced myself I’m not crazy after all.
My own Extreme Research started with hopping down stairs. I wondered what it would be like to hop down stairs on one foot, and I tried it. For three steps. Then I almost missed one, and my life flashed before my eyes, and I decided to stop researching before I killed myself.
My next step in Extreme Research was a little more time-consuming, but a lot less dangerous. I wanted to know how to make oatmeal without oats. More specifically, how not to make oatmeal without oats. I tried grating potatoes and cooking them with garlic and onions, and it actually tasted pretty good. I still haven’t gotten a hold of parsnips yet, but when I do, I’m boiling them with yarrow and onion. I hope it tastes terrible.
And then came the nalbinding. See, I’ve always loved crafting. My grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was six, and I’ve been creating things out of yarn ever since then. In my research, I stumbled across an ancient Norse technique of yarn-crafting called nalbinding. It’s actually quite simple—easier than knitting in my opinion—and the only drawback is that you have to use wool yarn.
So guess what? After watching three or four different YouTube tutorials, I taught myself how to nalbind.
And now that I’ve come into possession of a bunch of wool, you can bet that I’m going to learn how to card and spin it.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done in the name of research? Do you know how to wash, card, or spin wool? And do you want me to tell you how it turns out? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don’t forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.