Research Is Never Wasted
Posted on August 6, 2012
I could’ve titled this post, “Why I Know How to Make A Potato Gun,” because I sort of do. It’s silly, really, but basically you take a pvc pipe and a grill lighter to create some kind of fuse. You cap one end, put the potato in the other, ignite the lighter…and WHAM-O, you’ve “shot your eye out” or more likely the bird-feeder right off the tree in your neighbor’s yard. Look it up on youtube. I swear it, red necks are making potato guns the world over. Too lazy to even do a search? Fine, I’ll include the mayhem for your amusement below. But, you have to read this entire post to see the potato fly out of the gun, so to speak.
My point is, I know WAY too much about potato guns because I wanted to have a hilarious and ridiculous fight in a novel that I was writing. I also didn’t want anyone to get “too” hurt. So, I wrote this whole fight scene between one side and the other that involved potato guns and papusa-hurling. This is a papusa…
It’s a delicious, Salvadorian, meat-filled treat. I thought it would combust nicely on impact. I thought it would both sting and be messy, which was great because I was trying to choreograph the biggest food fight ever seen in a novel.
I don’t think I need to tell you the novel sucked huge walnuts.
It really did. There was about one solid chapter and the rest of it, 60,000 words of a steaming pile of turd.
But, I don’t regret the research. I’m a big researcher and I love doing it because I find, from a writerly stand point, the best stuff is mined from the most obscure of places.
For example, I know, just know – unequivocally – that human beings don’t like to kill other human beings, for the most part. You might think the opposite is true in light of the recent Sikh shooting and the horror in Aurora.
But, it’s not. We don’t like to kill each other.
I know this because I researched it for a story idea and found some surprising revelations. For one, in close combat quarters soldiers are unlikely to shoot at the enemy EVEN when their own lives are in danger. “In WWII, only 15 to 20% of soldiers fired their weapons at enemy soldiers in view, even if their own lives were endangered.” The data goes on to say…“In the U.S. Civil War, well-trained soldiers fired over the enemies heads or only pretended to fire…” Then there is the Vietnam statistic – where a far greater percentage of soldiers DID fire and they fired an amazing quantity of bullets, however, very few hit their targets. That’s because what the soldiers were doing was, “spraying and praying.” Lighting up an area with their eyes closed, basically. Because the truth is, unless you’re a total crackpot, when you look another human in the eyes, your own biology does NOT want you to kill them. (I’ll include a link to one of my sources on this subject below.)
Fascinating stuff, isn’t it? I don’t know where I’ll use it, but I know I’ll use it somewhere.
Then there’s the other completely unrelated, yet highly interesting statistic about America and our PERCEPTION of sexuality. You see, under 2% of the U.S. population is actually gay. And when I say actually gay, I mean out and proud, says it out loud, and would fill out a Census form indicating as such. Less than 2% of the population! And even this 2% number is very hard to pin down. Why? Because peoples’ sexuality can be all over the place. One day they are gay, the next day they are not. I mean, need we look any further than Ted Haggard to realize this is true?
But, that’s not the fascinating part. The real kernel of juicy is this…the population of gay Americans is calculated roughly under 2% and YET, most of America thinks the number is closer to 25%. So, most Americans think 25% of our population is gay. Why in the hell is our perception so vastly far off from the reality? Who knows? Maybe if you counted all the bisexuals and lesbians-until-graduation and homo-erotic holds in the UFC and locker room scenes gone wrong (or maybe right?) well, then, maybe the number is closer to 25%. Maybe we just see more gay than there actually is and there’s nothing more to it than that. The underlying cause doesn’t matter much for what I’m saying here today. What does matter is that there’s something interesting in that tidbit. There’s something there that could be something. What? A post? A story? A novel? A video? I don’t know, but there IS a something.
Maybe I’ll never use that potato gun research. Who knows…
Wait a second, I just did…for this frickin’ post. So, you see — in one way or another, EVERYTHING gets used and nothing gets wasted.
As such, I think I’ll always be a writer who researches because you never know where you’re going to find a gem. Turn over a rock and if the story flows, you might end up with an Oscar. Hey, a girl’s gotta dream…
And now, for your pleasure, SWEET MOTHER gives to you a potato gun extravaganza entitled, “WHAT IN THE HELL DID THIS CHAIR EVER DO TO YOU?”
If for some reason you’re having trouble seeing the vid in WordPress, you can go here — potatogunfun.
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