I’ve been in research mode the last week. I’m trying to decide what new, fun creatures to use in the story I’m working on.
One of my first researching tools is always John & Caitlin Matthews’ The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures. It has a fantastic number of creatures from a diverse variety of cultural myths. And it’s always exciting to find a creature I’ve never heard of that happen to fit in really well with the story that’s taking shape in my mind.
Another fun, though completely unrelated to writing, aspect of this book, is that Roomie hates it with a burning passion. I’ve mentioned that the theme to The X-Files causes a violent reaction in her. Well, the encyclopedia is very similar in that respect. As soon as she sees it in my hand, her face contorts into a mask of hateful rage. And because she’s my best friend, this makes me giggle and tell her new fun facts. ‘Cause that’s what best friends do.
When I put the question to her directly regarding her dislike of this encyclopedia, her answer was succinct.
Roomie: It has lots of gross, creepy things in it.Me: And this bothers you?Roomie: Yes. Much like insects and creepy crawlers in the apartment bother you. Same sort of thing.
That’s actually a pretty fair point.
Considering I rely on her to take care of such multi-legged demons, it would probably behoove me to torture her less with information on the surprising number of cannibalistic creatures that have apparently existed in myth.
Back to the point, though, this part of the research is a lot of fun, but it’s also a bit of a black hole. It sucks me further and further in. And for every new creature I discover, I want to know more, leading me to turn to the internet. Which naturally presents me with more rabbit holes to jump into. Suddenly days have passed and while I now have enough information to write biographies on each of the creatures that interested me, I have not actually put anything substantial on the page in regards to my story.
It is at this point that I have to put down the encyclopedia, tear myself away from the siren’s call of the internet and just write. Sometimes, I take a little convincing. Other times, I need the Roomie to drag me, kicking and screaming, from the internet and hide all my research books. But I’m eventually able to pull myself away from all the cool details about individual creatures and use what I’ve learned in the story.
It’s not always great right off the bat. Sometimes it's a huge heap of garbage. There are times when things just don’t fit quite as well as I thought they would. Or I can’t quite remember every detail of the creature I decided to incorporate into my world. But I keep writing, because I know if I stop the black hole will swallow me up again and I’ll have to start the extrication process all over again.
Speaking of which....I think I hear Roomie coming. Better start writing!