Research- ain’t it grand?

Research is something I didn’t think I would get so into, nor necessarily need, while writing contemporary fiction and so I find myself continuously surprised by how much I feel I need to do.  That isn’t to say I don’t want to learn all sorts of interesting stuff of the non-fiction variety (I love learning stuff about history for example) but what on Earth about this time and this place really requires me to buy or borrow books before I start typing (or continue typing in this instance)?

My first book seemed like it would be so easy to write.  My understanding of psychology on the level I wrote about seemed to be solidly in my realm of pre-existing knowledge (I was wrong, btw) and the scenery seemed to be easy as it’s set in my home state (wrong again).  So what do I wind up doing?  I raid my personal library for the information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, rape victims, sexual perversions in women (wound up not being applicable but boy was there some interesting info on that subject), then about psychopaths/sociopaths (they’re different- did you know that?) and narcissism (yes, really).  Now, for some, Wiki might have done the trick but in truth it fell short on a great many topics (like most).

Next, of course, I wanted to be certain of my heroine’s garden.  You might think- well, some splashes of color here, a rogue daisy over there and you’re done!  Well, no.  I had to look up indigenous plants of all sorts, what light they required, whether they were annuals or perennials…  and so it went until I had print outs of all the plants and trees I wanted in her garden.  I’m totally not kidding.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the research, but suffice it to say I’m hell on research.  This new manuscript is rather waiting for a book to come in from Borders (will they just hurry up and call me already saying it’s in?!) so I can get into the head of someone that has, for all intents and purposes, had a break down.  Not a PTSD breakdown but something more along the lines of a psychotic break (I’m thinking Delusional Disorder but am still consulting my Merck Manual to finalize.  Yes, I have one).  The book should hopefully be of some help while I have still more help from an awesome friend who is so kindly letting me pick her brain.  (Thanks, Chris W.!)

This leads me to my question (Really, I never run out!)- if not for work, what do you feel inclined/obligated to look up?  What sources do you rely upon?  Do you use more than one to verify validity?  Are there any non-fiction subjects that strike your fancy?

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