A novel that I wrote a couple of years ago, a technology thriller, had a plot line that required a lot of research in entomology.
Hear me out...
It had to do with a truth serum and pheromones and what not. I ultimately went in another direction and scrapped the whole pheromone thing for a plant-based formula...but at the time, I needed answers. I tried to find what I needed from books, the library, and the internet, but I couldn't.
You see, the questions I had didn't exactly show up on Yahoo Answers. Although I have had cops answer procedural questions for me on that site. I needed to speak to a real "Bug Guy" who could answer my questions.
I found a very patient, very nice research assistant over at UC Riverside. I found him, ironically, through the Botany Extension associated with my garden club.
Over the years of writing and working toward getting published, I've done tons of research with people that are, surprisingly, eager to help. I've accosted complete strangers for insights into their occupation and have never had a bad reaction...never.
Social workers on family law, Artists on pigment properties, Concrete guys on tension slabs...you name it. I even bothered a poor guy walking his dog to ask him if it was true that French bulldog puppies can't swim...apparently their heads are too heavy.
I whip out my little notebook like a reporter at a crime scene...everything you say is absolutely fascinating to me...and may be used against you in a novel. I let people know I'm using their stuff and they all seem to be pretty okay with that. You see people are passionate about what they do...as writer...you might as well benefit from that enthusiasm.
So how do you research something you can't find by traditional methods? Do you post it on an email loop or ask random strangers? How about any sci-fi or paranormal writers...how do you write about things that aren't invented yet?
I await your answers. Until next time...Go Write!