Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's for research, I swear!

I love the news programs like 48 Hours and Dateline, and recently discovered ID-- that dangerous time-suck of a cable channel that's like a true crime marathon. I've watched enough of the shows to know that if someone's accused of a murder, the police will probably be checking their computer history. Each time, I'm amazed that the suspect hadn't thought of that. I want to scream at the TV, "Seriously? You Googled 'How to poison someone with antifreeze,' then poisoned your husband with antifreeze?! Didn't you think that would look bad?" That's one of those things that's hard to explain, isn't it? Not something most of us look into just 'cause we're curious. Your trial probably isn't going well if Exhibit A is poster-sized screen shot of your search history that includes "How to train ferrets to commit murder," especially if your significant other recently died in a tragic attack by assassin-ferrets.

But watching those shows does make me worry about the search history on my own computer. Not because I plan to kill anyone, but just in case I'm ever accused of a crime if someone close to me mysteriously dies or disappears. We know sometimes innocent people become "persons of interest," so it's possible, right? And writers have legitimate reasons for searching for some pretty weird things. So how incriminating would my computer's history look? 

I can see the interview now:

Detective: "Interesting. The coroner found that your neighbor died of botulism poisoning. You've been reading quite a few articles lately about botulism, haven't you? What a coincidence."

Me: "Oh. Right. Yes. I can explain that. It really is an amazing coincidence. See, I was writing this scene where a character is hospitalized after trying to make homemade Botox by sticking a needle into a bloated, dented can of peas and jamming the needle into her forehead."

Detective: "Uh-huh. And I suppose we can read this scene, in a book somewhere?"

Me: "Well, no. Turns out botulism poisoning isn't as hilarious as you'd think."

Detective: "I'm sure your neighbor would say the same thing. If she wasn't in the morgue, I mean."

Me: "Um..."

Detective: "And you were also searching for 'How to fake a kidnapping,' 'Faking own death,' and 'New identity.' Going somewhere?"

Me: "No! Really, it's all going to be in a book. Maybe. I haven't revised yet. It's not for me, personally. I'm not going anywhere."

Detective: "Yes, you're right about that. I believe you won't be going anywhere for a long, long time."

Me: "Can I have my laptop back, then?" 

So what weird searches have you found yourself doing as a writer? We'll be your witnesses. Just in case.


  1. I looked up how many spikes are on a hedgehog, just in case I need to puncture someone 5,000+ times!

  2. I worry about this every time I Google something strange. I wonder how far back they go? *gulp*

  3. Wow, Lynne, your botulism would be hard to top. Instead of being hounded by police, I just get hounded by advertisers -- still have a salesperson who contacts me every six months regarding that half- million dollar yacht I called and inquired about. And I haven't been able to get off an email list about bovine stud services (don't ask). But yeah, I think the unintended consequences of book research is why so many people are writing fantasy these days. . . .

  4. Doris, we just have to hope you don't have an argument with someone who coincidentally dies in a freak hedgehog accident.

    And I think our search history goes back indefinitely, Shelli! We just have to hope there's no reason for anyone to look into it.

    I want to know the story on that bovine stud service, Miriam.

  5. I looked up some info on bestiality for a character once, a fascinating yet horribly disgusting hour that

  6. Yes David, it was "for a character," of course. That does sound horrifying.

  7. LOL, these are awesome!! Bovine stud services, ha!

    I've googled 'untraceable ways to kill a person.' Creepy, I know. And then 'smell of chloroform.' Sicky sweet, just fyi.

  8. Ah yes, where would we be without the sweet smell of chloroform? Lonely and single, that's where!