Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Google History Could Get Me In Trouble

John McFetridge

I do a lot of research online. This week it was cocaine smuggling into Canada and I found out that Nova Scotia Power imports low-sulpher coal from Venezuela. And sometimes, there's a little something extra on the freighters.

When I was writing Swap I was digging into the theme of how power shifts in a relationship, how the powerful positions sometimes swap places. It started with how bikers in Canada were used by the Mafia as muscle until there were so many of them and they were so strong they became rivals (and in my books even more, but I may be making that up).

Then I thought it might be fun to take this idea of the relationship swap all the way and I googled "Wife Swapping." The first thing I found out is that people involved in this, um, activity, don't call it that anymore. They call it, the lifestyle. And then I discovered there seems to be a lot of them.

I also discovered on Google that men who go to prostitutes (not on the street, but through escort agencies) called the activity, the hobby.

Of course, I also spend time online on blogs and on book sites, and I have to confess, far too much time on sports sites. If the Maple Leafs don't win a game soon, I may never finish another book.

And on all these sites they have discussion forums which are great for research. I learn a lot in the discussion forums, mostly that no matter what the topic is that gets people there in the first place, they all start to look the same after a while. Politics, movies, sports - there are pretty much the same opinions on the wife swap- er lifestyle sites as there are on the book sites or sports sites. The same jokes get passed around, the same YouTube clips, people are still talking about Balloon Boy.

As weird a place as the internet is (and, wow, it is often very, truly, deeply weird) it's also a good place to remind yourself that there are a lot of normal people in the world. Or, you know, mostly normal given that they spend their spare time with prostitutes or someone else's spouse or explaining in great detail what exactly is wrong with the Leafs' power play and penalty killing.

Lately I have also found bits and pieces of dialogue online.

"A man is only as good as the porn he watches."

Now I can slip that into one of my books easy, I already know which character is going to say it (Felice, a woman who sees many men involved in the hobby ). That came from a fun site called "Texts from Last Night."

Another good site is "F*** My Life" where people post awful things that happened to them. Stuff like, "Today, I watched my boyfriend's band play a gig. I also found out he pulls the same faces playing the bass as he does when we have sex."

I'm not sure who's going to say that, but I'll find a place.

The Overheard sites are good, too. Overheard in New York is my favourite, (Six-year-old boy: Mom, did you know that Elvis Presley died of a drug overdose? Mom: Well, that won't ever happen to you. Six-year-old boy, angrily: How do you know?) but Overheard in the Office is also very good ("How many of these one-a-day vitamins am I supposed to take every day?"

News of the Weird always has some good crime stories.

So, what are some of your favourite places for "research" online?


John McFetridge said...

Okay, this one is no good for research, but it's a great time waster: The Uncyclopedia.

I started with How to: Write Good.

I've been saying for a long time now that I don't like anything that sounds like it was written by my grade nine English teacher and there she is on the page!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Once upon a time I wrote a story about a charter school--this was work-related, not fiction, and I decided I needed a pic to go with it. So I googled "schoolgirls." Need I say anymore?

Anonymous said...

You guys; yes, each of you, are a piece of work. I read DSD every day for a little humor and a good read.

"schoolgirls" indeed! What were you thinking? Pleated skirts and monogrammed jacket/vest, perhaps?

Though I believe it's been corrected now, there was a time when a google of "SSDI" (social security death index) would bring up the top half of an absurdly enhanced nude female. I failed to follow up with more research on that one. You guys may have more interest.

BTW, while you're bemoaning the Maple Leafs, keep in mind our Dead Wings seem to be hellbent on displacing them.

Kieran Shea said...

An amazing portal into the black market...

Kiss your day goodbye.

Barbara Martin said...

Great post and I love Patti's comment. Like you didn't know, Patti!

John McFetridge said...

Hey Keiran, I quoted from Havoscope for an article I wrote in Driven magazine in Canada earlier this year. Love that site.

And dojo the Wings should take a rest, their arms must be sore from carrying around those Stanley Cups ;)