IWSGDoing writing research is not something I do a great deal (see my U post for the A to Z Challenge to discover why).  This month the Insecure Writers Support Group suggested tackling the question:

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

… and for once, I thought I had an answer.  Before I do, here’s a shout-out to our wonderful co-hosts this month.  I don’t give our hosts enough kudos in these posts, but I do appreciate them.  Thank you!
Co-Hosts for May 2017:
Michelle Wallace
Nancy Gideon
Tamara Narayan
Liesbet @ Roaming About
Feather Stone

Writing research for alien species

perihelix cover2I am writing a science fiction series.  I’m convinced it’s a real series, although by now some of you may think it’s a figment of my imagination, it’s taking so long to come out.  During its development, I realised one very good reason people generally make their aliens humanoid. Apart from films, where it’s easier to put a human in a costume than build things more elaborate than Daleks, unless you go CGI.


Along with rolling things round like my brain like:

  • how do you get a vacuum cleaner to work in space (real space, not in a space ship)

I wondered:

  • what effects do things like different air mixtures have on non-mammal species
  • what does it actually do to someone to grow up on a higher/lower gravity planet, or one where light levels are lower
  • how does the human(oid) body evolve in these situations

… and then there were more philosophical questions like

  • what do these species think about in their spare time
  • how do their eyes influence their world view
  • what type of myths and legends, and belief systems do they have

I could go on.  You get the picture.  This is a very easy area to go off at a tangent for months.  It’s also very easy to find something irrelevant when looking on Wikipedia and spend the day on some other pages entirely.  But I had a specific concern about insects, and the odonerata species in particular, which my reference books didn’t cover.

Mammals v Reptiles

Then again, reptiles.  I had reptoid species, which I didn’t know much about, physiologically speaking.  It’s all very well to give Mr Spock two hearts and green blood, but…. what makes reptiles very different from mammals?  I never got as far as dissecting frogs in biology (I think I might have refused), so my knowledge of these things was very limited.

So I asked my vet. She was fascinated by the idea, as I hoped she might, and we talked for a while about differences in reptiles and mammals.  (Our vets do a lot with lizards, chameleons, and snakes; I even saw a stick insect there once). One bit of trivia: reptiles don’t respond well to oxygen if you’re trying to get them to breathe, because they tend to absorb it through their skin.  If you give them oxygen to help them breathe, they’ll probably not bother to breathe at all.  I paraphrase my vet’s comment, and may have got it wrong!  But that was something I took away.  She was also kind enough to look out some scientific papers she thought I might find interesting.  I did!

I’m not sure that I’ve used any of this research specifically, but it opened my mind to other possibilities, and when inventing aliens, that’s no bad thing.

Found anything weird in your writing research lately?  Especially all you crime buddies 🙂

#IWSG – a question of writing research

11 thoughts on “#IWSG – a question of writing research

  • 3 May, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Wow, a science-fiction series. I have to applaud you. That’s wonderful. All the best in developing it.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    • 3 May, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Thanks, Pat – and thanks for visiting 🙂

  • 3 May, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    That’s some cool research, whether or not it ever makes it into the books in any way. I’m happy to follow my curiosity down the rabbit hole, and count it all as part of the vast mass of random stuff in my head that comes out one way or another.

    And I really need to start including the shout-out to the hosts in my IWSG posts.

    • 3 May, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Yes. I love learning things. I was born to be a perpetual student!

  • 3 May, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    The thing I find fun around writing sci-fi is the creativity of creating a new race. There’s lots of possibilities and questions to answer.

    • 3 May, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Well, I’ve just finished Abducted Life, and you have some really cool species developing there! Good work, Patricia. I’ll review it fairly soon, probably.

  • 4 May, 2017 at 2:40 am

    I love sci-fi! And I love that you mined the expertise of a vet – what a great resource for developing a realistic life form.

    • 4 May, 2017 at 9:23 am

      I think she got quite interested in the idea. I made her surname the contact at the Healer Guild in my other series 🙂

  • 5 May, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Hi Jemima – asking for help from the vet makes sense – and yes I’d take away that reptiles breathe through the skin… but my mind wouldn’t be creating/writing a sci-fi novel/series though … good luck … cheers Hilary

    • 7 May, 2017 at 10:02 am

      You never know where a little bit of learning will take you!

  • 10 May, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    While I taut I don’t like research, it is one way to not get sucked into interesting reading on the internet! I’m sure research can reveal a lot of fascinating stuff and I would get carried away. I try to shrug it off, by saying (well, thinking), that I’d rather read a book – one of the many on my list – than spend even more time at the computer. In reality, even reading a book is low priority and rarely happens. By the way, understanding insects better sounds very intriguing to me. I love wildlife!
    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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