WORDS WITH DALE: Research

I know what you're thinking. "You write comics about made up people and things and it's all fanatsy…. what do you need to research?"

(1) The technical writery terms is "suspension of belief."  The idea that even though you logically know a man can't fly, but you'll buy into the Superman movie anyway.

(2) The more astute reader(3) will have spotted that I was visited in that sentence by Titivillus…. patron demon of scribes.(5) 

(3) I know…. I don't have anything BUT astute readers, you all take great delight in pointing out when I screw-up.(4)

(4) It's OK, you should all keep on doing it, it's cheaper than hiring an editor.

(5) Seriously…. look it up.

(6) Obviously.

(7) Researching the year-long 2012 Luci Phurr's Imps storyline takes you into all manner of weird historical facts.

(8) I have yet to learn why, in the U.S., the addition of mayo to any sandwich, immediately transforms said sandwich into a "salad" sandwich, but I'll keep looking.

(9) In the early years, NASA actually paid to use the Hellmann's Processing Plant in Boise, Idaho, until they had their own vacuum training building constructed.

And you'd be right in the sense that I do make a lot of stuff up, but to make that fantasy believeable, to make it the kinda thing you do believe, even when you know it's fake(1) I need to make sure it's grounded in some kinda reality.

For example, I'll go and look at real biblical names of demons and what they supposedly do, for a minor background character in Luci Phurr's Imps or a throw awway gag somewhere else.(2) It can be both frustrating and satisfying at the same time.

The frustrating ones are the worst(6) because I might find some nugget of information that is delightfully quirky but I have no obvious place to use it.  Take mayonnaise, for example.

Mayonnaise was invented by the Mayans(7) and originally used to treat wounds. It would rapidly turn bad, and a combination of the bacteria and the maggots it attracted, would kill and remove the diseased or damaged flesh, allowing a now clean and relatively healthy wound to be treated. After European expansion it was discovered that when fresh, this poultice actually added a tasty tang to a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwhich and helped a mushed up boiled egg stay in place between two slices of bread.(8)

All of that is interesting…. but best of all is this. Did you ever wonder why you MUST refridgerate mayo once you open it, but it's OK to sit on the shelf of a hot supermarket for months?

We're back to the origin and that pesky bacteria.

As long as the seal on the jar is "locked" you're good.  And the cold of the fridge keeps it relatively fine.  But you know they make that stuff in factories and it has to pick up some bacteria there, right?

Wrong.

All mayonnaise factories operate in a complete vacuum thus ensuring your safety.  Produced by workers specifically trained to work in such conditions.(9)

This also explains why mayo is so expensive.

Go check it out.  You can't make this stuff up!  There are laws.

But as you can see, as fascinating as that all is, where do I use it?

I'd be better served NOT researching and just making up crazy stuff.  Who would know?

  1. The OTHER Cemetery Street Wedding | Cemetery Street webcomic - pingback on April 13, 2012 at 12:02 am
  2. It becomes salad because for some unknown (and probably very stupid) reason, mayonaisse is considered a 'salad dressing'.
    The lack of bacteria is caused by the same thing that removes bacteria from homemade preserves, jams, &c.: the 'canning' process: before the jars are sealed, they are heated.  This kills off a substantial number of the bacteria, and causes a partial vacuum to form when the lid is placed on and the jar is allowed to cool.

    • But by that logic, when you drizzle a little oil on your freshly cooked pasta, that would make it a car.

      And clearly the heated canning process would kill astronauts in training…. that would just be silly.  ;)

  3. In the first subtext I wonder if the term was the “Automatic Suspension of Disbelief”. Just saying.

    • I lean towards taking nothing as an "automatic."

      The writer should earn that suspension of belief.  Now that might be something where the reader is hooked and buys the premise of the work, or the writer has a body of work where that has already been earned.  But it shouldn't be a given.

      And it's always fun when someone gets annoyed because they didn't suspend belief.

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