Why This Writer Loves Google

What do tattoo parlors, volcanos, rotis, dinghies, Caribbean soft drinks, and bush medicine have in common? I had questions about all of these things this week while writing.

My first two novels were written pre-Google. I knew the Caribbean island I was writing about, so could fill in most details. I also had a couple of books I could use for historical backstory.

Now, ten years, later I am writing the third book in that Caribbean series and Google is making it possible for me to access information that I would otherwise struggle to find.

Today I’ve been writing a scene set in a tattoo parlor. I always try to add sensory information which puts my reader in the scene, so I wondered what a tattoo parlor smells like. I googled the question and got several answers. Apparently it depends on the kind of tattoo parlor, but it gave me some ideas. In the past, I would have had to find a tattoo parlor like the one I was envisioning in this scene, driven to the locaton, walked in and sniffed. And probably had a lot of explaining to do to the people working there. Just finding one in the Yellow Pages wouldn’t have given me the information I needed. I presume tattoo parlors differ. I might have needed to sniff several.

When describing the tattoo parlor’s waiting room I wanted to know about magazines published in 1984. Were there any tattoo magazines? Yes! Tattoo began publishing that year, so I could put a copy in the waiting room.

This week I also needed to know some information about volcanic activity in St. Lucia where the novel is set. What kind of scientific tools were used in 1984 to monitor that island’s volcano. Tons of information was available on line.

I also had to find out about the dinghies that are pulled behind sail boats and small yachts in that decade. If I don’t get the details right, some reader will know and call me out.

I needed to find out if Rotis (an island fast food staple – sort of an island burrito) ever included fried flying fish. Apparently not, but sometimes conch is used. That worked for me. I also required details about bush medicine for high blood pressure and the kinds of soft drinks available on St. Lucia in 1984.

There’s a Russian mob connection in the story so Laura recommended I read Red Notice. That wasn’t the same time frame, but it gave me some good ideas about how to weave that part of the plot line together. Red Notice is an amazing true story thriller. I read it last week and this week a bunch of the names of people in the book were in the news.

So this week, when it was too hot to cook or be in the garden after 9 a.m., I was at my computer researching and writing. I’m making progress thanks to Google. What did writers do before the internet? I know we spent alot of time at the library, but some of the information I needed wouldn’t have been available, or I wouldn’t have had a clue how to track it down. I love Google.

We Go to the Movies

We were in Key West for two weeks and one of the things we do is go to the movies – a lot.  Maybe it’s the Oscar nominations that pushes us to get out of the rental condo. After all, if you write scripts going to the movies is research.  Here’s what we saw and what I thought.

45 years movie

My husband and I have been married for forty years. All of us who have been married that long could recognize parts of ourselves in this couple. Not necessarily the big secret the husband carried, but the everyday work of keeping a relationship alive. Pollyanna me was hoping for a more hopeful ending; it was a depressing movie. Sex scenes with saggy asses hit too close to home. That being said, the actors gave amazingly nuanced, Oscar worthy performances.

joy movie

Until fifteen minutes into this movie, I didn’t know it was about Joy Magnano. Heck, I have a bunch of her products bought on HSN in the middle of the night when my husband was asleep next to me. And they are clever products I like and use.

I hope her parents are dead because they were portrayed as flawed users. As someone who writes scripts, I know that the genre historical fiction means you have to push the edges of what really happened. Laura and I did that in our script Loverly, the story of Alan Jay Lerner and how My Fair Lady came to Broadway. We had to fudge the date of Lerner’s father’s death. The date of his actual death inconveniently didn’t work with the plot arc.

I like movies where the underdog wins, especially underdog women, so I liked Joy.

danish girl movie

“Wow” is all I can say about The Danish Girl. The script was flawless as were the performances. If Redmayne doesn’t win an Oscar for best actor, something’s wrong. Don’t miss this movie. Watching him come to terms with his inner gender and trying on feminine mannerisms was so well done. This script is based on a book by the real Danish Girl. How horrible it must have been to be transgendered before anyone knew what it was. Spoiler alert: some full frontal male nudity that was not gratuitous.

Brooklyn movie

This was a beautifully done movie. It spoke to the choices that we make and how they effect our lives moving forward.

big short movie

I left The Big Short feeling totally pissed off. Why are none of the people who created this economic crisis in jail? And it sounds like they are doing it again. Both Laura and my husband had read the book and wondered how it could be possibly be made into a movie. So kudos to the script writers and how they made incredibly complicated financial issues understandable. Awesome performances by Christian Bale and Steve Carell.

We haven’t seen The Martian or Room, and I passed on The Revenant and Mad Max Fury Road.

Watching movies is research for script writers. I’m so glad it’s part of the job!