Thursday, December 3, 2009

Google Panic

-- Adrienne Miller

Did you know that chloroform wasn’t discovered until 1831? 

I didn’t. And when I found out I nearly panicked. Because, you see, I really needed a certain young woman to be drugged and rendered insensible for at least a couple of hours in 1805. 

Sure, if it had only been a year or two discrepancy I would have fudged it. But 26 years? Not even I can rationalize that gap away.

I needed a substitute and I needed it fast. This was the last sweep through my manuscript before I sent it out. I had promised everyone I knew that I would have that puppy out in 24 hours. I’d dawdled long enough. My husband was sick of my excuses for not sending it last month...or last week...or yesterday. I was actually fearing physical violence from my critique groups if I had to confess to missing another self-imposed deadline.

So after a couple of deep breaths into a paper lunch sack, I came to my senses and did what every modern writer does when faced with these terrible dilemmas--I googled.

I googled the hell out of it. My first choice for a substitute was bust. Ether didn’t come into use until 1818, so I went deeper.  I searched “Drugs to make someone unconscious” and “homemade chloroform substitute”. You know the kinds of searches that land you on a FBI watch list somewhere.

---On a side note, can someone tell me if these lists exist or are they just the made up boogeymen of writers minds when we have to google something like “how to dissolve a body in lye”. I’m always certain there’s going to be a knock on my door the day after I type something like that in.

Ten minutes later I hit the jackpot.  A sponge soaked in a solution of opium and mandrake root had been used by doctors starting in the 13th century to render patients unconsciousness. Was it perfect? Close enough. And, anyway, who’s to say my villain wasn’t a fan of medieval Italian medical texts?

See, that’s the sort of plot point I can rationalize away. 


Juliet Blackwell said...

Boy, do I know that sinking feeling of realizing that the timeline's off --significantly off. Most readers probably wouldn't notice --or care-- but for those who do (or heaven forbid, a *reviewer*)it'll ruin the book for them. I write contemporaries, but with my art series I was forever having to check when different pigments and canvas types were discovered or outlawed. Fascinating stuff, though!

Tom Neely said...

It's almost like you were bullied into doing research by your friends and family. It worked, so score one for google. or maybe bullying.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the funny post! The lists do exist. But I think you are okay until you either move a lot of money to Pakistan or send the President threatening email.

Sophie Littlefield said...

that is so great. I doubt your critique groups would have resorted to violence though - especially since you are the glorious solver of plot problems this week!! good on you. :)

Martha Flynn said...

he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he he

i love you.

Dana Fredsti said...

I think most mystery writers are on a list somewhere because of their Google hits.

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