[ri-surch, ree-surch] noun: diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.
There’s a very popular children’s book called “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” which I had read over and over to my granddaughter; we both loved it. The premise of the story is as follows: If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk to go with it. If he wants a glass of milk, he’s going to have to get the milk from the refrigerator and pour it into a cup. When he pours it into the cup he might spill it and then he’ll have get a mop to wipe it up, etc., etc., etc. I think it’s the what happens next question that makes the story relatable. Each choice the mouse makes has a direct connection to the next choice. And on, and on, and on. I do know that if you give me a cookie I’m going to want to know where it came from and what’s in it. (And I’ll want a glass of milk.) This is what I do when I’m writing. One piece of information leads to the next and then the next and so on.
For example, my current WIP (work-in-progress) I’m researching a very specific event in California history that occurred in the winter of 1861/1862. Although the Great California Flood of 1862 affected the entire state, the northern part of California suffered the most—the great “inundation” at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. The rain poured steadily over a period of ??? days and the entire Sacramento Valley turned into one big lake. So much so that ??? inches were registered. The Sacramento river rose ??? feet, broke the levees and covered ??? square blocks of the city. Hundreds of people, livestock, homes and property were displaced. See the question marks? So I don’t slow down during my actual “writing” I put them in, go back later, search for the marks and fill in the missing information.
I can’t help myself. Research—for me—is trying to eat just one M&M. I look up one simple fact and swoosh, I get sucked into the vortex of information not to be seen or heard from for days. I want, no, I need to know what was so unique about the weather and related conditions that caused so much flooding and damage? How much (cold) rain came down each day and how many feet did the river rise? How did it feel to stand near the river’s edge and think “how bad can this get” then watch a boat or two float up to street level? How did the business owners on Front Street feel as they watched debris-ladened water rush into the streets, fill up their basements and then…..rise to the height of the second floor? How did they save their merchandise? What if they couldn’t get a boat? What about their families? Who would save them? And worse, what if they got swept up in the water and possibly drowned? Research, research, research…….
But, I love it. It’s my favorite part of writing.
See you later.