One of the pleasures of being a writer is that it is my actual job to seek out weird facts. Sometimes I feel a bit like a jaybird, skimming through books and articles. Or eavesdropping. Or gossiping. Feathering my nest with all sorts of intriguing information. Will I actually use them? I just don’t know. When I least expect it, these facts pop out of my head. Or melt into my brain.
For example, a weird fact about owls is that a group of them together is known as “a parliament.” According to chipperbirds.com, this is because owls are considered to be wise and intelligent. Like a parliament.
Then there is the issue of the chocolate chip cookies. I was chatting with my son, who is living in London at the moment, and he informed me that when the French bake chocolate chip cookies, they don’t use brown sugar. (He sent me a recipe, so I can attest that this is true.) This weird fact stunned me as I have spent a good percentage of my life hacking away at brown sugar in a desperate attempt to make chocolate chip cookies.
And more weird facts
Then I was reading Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham and came across this astoundingly weird fact, on page 27. “The granite used to build the US Capitol is so radioactive that the building would fail federal safety codes regulating nuclear power plants.”
From my husband, who is a font of weird facts, I learned that Teddy Roosevelt read all of Anthony Trollope’s work, as a young man. From a site on yahoo I learned that all Fruit Loops are the same flavor, no matter the color. When I think of all the time I spent arguing with my brother over the pink one.
Finally, from a book on the Hidden History of Long Island by Richard Pancbyk I learned about Shelter Rock, a massive boulder pushed by glaciers to a spot not far from where my new novel is set. The Matinecocks used that rock for shelter and various of their tools have been found there.
So what is the point of this all?
It might seem trivial, but actually, weird facts are the mulch from which a lot of characters and plot emerge. That giant boulder is a good example. Reading that one weird fact transformed how I saw the setting about which I’d be writing. Before, I’d viewed the landscape of my fictional village as beautiful, but rather bland. That rock showed me that, in fact, this piece of land teamed with history. I began to think more about my protagonist and thought she would be someone intrigued by that history, as she was having a hard time grappling with her own personal history. It gave me so much to delve into.
All this from one weird fact.
So friends, do you have any weird facts you’d like to share? Join the discussion on Facebook.
Weird facts as a writer’s mulch is a fabulous description, Susan, and so true. I’d love to hear the weird facts other writers have collected perhaps in a question of the week. I have a great one I learned as a nursing student.
I suspect nurses hear incredible stories! Can’t wait to hear that one.
I feel I accumulate most of my weird facts and ideas from chatting with people at the pub! It’s amazing what you can pick up. Back when the pub was a weekly thing, we would run into this pilot and he’d invariably show us pictures he took from the cockpit. He’d been a pilot for over 25 years and he still marveled at the view enough to want to photograph it every single time he flew.
That’s really moving, Emilya!
I come across weird facts when I’m supposed to be researching something else. Not going down the rabbit hole after the weird fact is a constant struggle for me
Those rabbit holes are so much fun, Alexia. Speaking of which, sort of, I just had some sweet potato fries with the brand name Alexia, and I thought, is there nothing she can’t do!