I’d like you to meet my friend Colby Marshall. (isn’t she adorable?) We first met blogging when I still lived in Mexico and Colby was in the middle of a challenge to blog every day for one year. I was immediately entranced with her obsession with hippopotami and spitting llamas, and I’m thrilled to feature her on Hoosblog!
Without further ado, here’s Colby!
Google for Writers
Google is probably both the best and the worst thing that ever happened to writers. Particularly mystery and thriller writers. Let me tell you why.
When William March wrote The Bad Seed, his classic thriller about a mother who begins to suspect her child of sinister tendencies, in 1954, he couldn’t simply pull out his iphone and call up the latest research on nature versus nurture. He couldn’t run an online search for the hallmark signs of psychopathy to “write into” Rhoda Penmark. Granted, he needn’t use the word ‘psychopath’ for everyone who picked up the novel to know that little girl was one conscienceless piece of work. On the one hand, this is an ugly thought. What would I do any time I needed to find the answer to how to poison someone without any investigator or M.E. being the wiser? How would I figure out the best angle of a gunshot wound to make blood spatter in a certain direction? And how would I know what sorts of criteria for these internet searches lands me on government watch lists?
And yet, one can’t help but feel sorry for March. Why? Because I know exactly how I would learn these answers if not for Google: the time consuming, tedious, and often frightening world of real-life interviews and experience. If that’s the case, to have gotten so many of the chilling details of Rhoda’s personality right, he had to have either interviewed some creepy humans, or worse, been unfortunate enough to know a psychopath himself. Then again, Google searches didn’t keep me from knowing one in person, but I digress…
That said, while Google has some amazing perks for writers, it might be the worst thing to happen to writers since liquor stores started closing on Sundays in most states. After all, if agents, editors, critics, and fans can’t readily double-check whether or not your details about the Bigfoot sighting of Australia in 1914 are accurate or not, chances are, they will simply either trust that the author’s facts are correct or suspend any disbelief they might have for the sake of a good story.
Now, with the rise of search engines more powerful than Joan Rivers’ botox, novels like The Da Vinci Code that are set in the real world could never exist unless the settings and details used to forward the novel have been researched to a fault. It’s a beautiful and terrible thing. When authors can turn out a product that nails every detail and the Da Vinci Codes of the world are born, the difficulty level of the constraints skyrockets the quality of the thriller. However, the majority of books fall somewhere short of that level of research perfection, so otherwise wonderful stories are put down, shunned by critics, and sometimes never read at all because of that little devil in the details. I personally love research, since I feel it takes my work to a new level, but even so, I have my moments when I wish I were in the days of no Google or smartphones where I could imagine what I think I’d wear in sub-arctic temperatures, and most people wouldn’t be the wiser.
What do you think: do the benefits of being able to Google almost anything outweigh the problems with it?
Thanks Colby! Now, everyone run off and buy her book!