As any writer of fiction—especially perhaps of historical fiction—can tell you, research is a key element in the writing process. I wasn’t always as stringent in my research standards as I am now (a failing that does haunt me a bit) but one thing I’ve always loved about the research stage is how odd and unusual history can be.
|vintage calling card, via Days of Elegance|
In fact, it’s given me what I call “weirdly specific knowledge” because I might not be able to give you a run-down of every major world event in the 1800s, but I sure can describe to you in great detail the multiple layers of a woman’s attire or the perils of the childhood death rate in Victorian London. My current novel involves a main character who owns a stationery company in the early 1900s: therefore, my computer screen is packed with internet tabs on calling cards, mechanical pencils, and chromolithography. A couple weeks ago I finally had cause to research that clichéd staple of the mystery writer’s repertoire: poisons, more specifically arsenic. I also now know enough about the early years of the American Mafia to annihilate an entire Jeopardy category on the subject.
Still, I think the strangest thing I’ve ever googled in the name of research was “history of eyebrow plucking.”
So…as this is one of my favorite topics, what’s some of the strangest or most surprising things you’ve ever found yourself researching? Or, what is a fascinating tidbit you’ve found unintentionally during your research?