Down the Research Rabbit Hole

hypnotic spiralAh, plotting a new story.  The ideas, the discovery, the freshness of it all. The research! Yeah, I know I sound like a freak. But hey, it’s the truth. I love doing background research for a new project. Honestly, I think I love it a little too much. I always try to build my fictional worlds around the things that interest me, or that I’m nostalgic for, or that I want to learn more about. So research is an excuse for immersing myself deeper into what I want to think about anyway.   That’s great for authenticity, but it’s easy to go overboard, especially now. With my recent projects taking place in the 1950s, I’ve needed to read more novels and watch more movies and TV of the era to help my dialogue, research midcentury hairstyles, fashion, cars, local history……..and, now I’m down the rabbit hole. The rabbit hole is deceptive. It sucks you in without you realizing, and before you know it, you’ve lost sleep, valuable writing time, and an overall sense of what’s happening in your real life. So consider this, and learn to spot the warning signs of……..


Descending Into the Research Rabbit Hole!  Everyone’s rabbit hole varies, but my experiences go something like this:

  1. Image searches, articles for settings, historical facts, general stuff. So far, this is normal. Nothing to worry about.
  2. “What year was Breakfast at Tiffany’s published? I’ve only seen the movie, so I should probably read it.” The next day: “Damn, Capote’s an awesome writer. How can I consider myself well-read without getting all of his books on Kindle and reading them NOW?!”
  3. “What’s my heroine’s hairstyle? Cool, look at all this stuff on Pinterest! Damn, there are a lot of chicks on YouTube doing vintage hair tutorials. I really should try out a few of these myself. For realism and all. I guess I need some rollers. Ooh! A trip to Sally Beauty Supply! Awesome!”
  4. There are a lot of weird ass recipes in my Grandmother’s old cookbook from the 50s. I should make some of them. Maybe I should buy some antique jello molds! And some retro aprons! I give you (drumroll, please)….. Imperial Salad!

imperial salad What do you mean there are already lots of other people on the internet making these and blogging about it? Sigh. Late to the party again

5. Clothes for my characters? Ebay, please! I so need a crinoline.

6. Why am I broke? It’s not the end of the month yet!

7. And why is my stack of research thicker than my actual manuscript? I’m writing a novella for chrissakes! And there’s a lot of stuff in my house I didn’t have before, too!


And this, my friends, is what it looks like at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Let my experience serve as a cautionary tale! As for me, I guess I better stick with writing in this era for awhile. Learn it, live it, love it!   So tell me, have you ever fallen down the research rabbit hole? What’s the weirdest and/or funniest thing you’ve become obsessed with in the guise of research.

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