Eoin's Writing Tip: Passive Research 

Passive research is holding yourself available for information that comes to you in unexpected ways from unexpected origins.  Such information can serve many purposes in terms of plotting and sources of imagery.  It can be general information that will trigger a thought process, or specific to solve an ongoing problem.  The point is to set imaginary filters in your mind to catch whatever pertinent stray material is in the air or your casual reading.  In addition to helping with plot and imagery, such information can be just what you need to tweak your imagination.             
 
My novel "Tethered” explores paths of evolution.  I happened one night to be watching Charlie Rose’s interview program on PBS, and one of his guests was the entomologist, E. O. Wilson who had just published his latest work "The Social Conquest of Earth.”  Wilson has spent his entire adult life studying the insect world, ants, termites, bees.  I’m not much interested in insects, but I am interested in how humans have evolved to form such complex methods of organization as we see around us.  However, thoughts of where they go right and where they go wrong can wake me in the middle of the night, if not screaming, then certainly writing, so the title of Wilson’s book immediately intrigued me: what is the connection of termite mounds and ant hills with pyramids and cities?  After following this line of thought, I learned humans and insects have a lot in common insofar as the benefits of cooperation are concerned.           
 
Some of my work has to do with spiritual quests – the individual kind as opposed to the organized religious kind.  My novel "Unbound” concerns itself with the variety of these personal endeavors, and when you think about it there are many paths to wander down – some frightening, as a short examination of the state of the world will alert you to.  I smoothed out some of these quests in my novel, "The Caves of Broken Dreams,” but in terms of an evolutionary imperative I wasn’t satisfied.  Individual quests are fine but there seems to be a shortage.  My question was: could the process of spiritual evolution be accelerated?           
 
One night in a quest of my own to find something interesting on TV,I came across a documentary about Ray Kurzweil called "Transcendent Man.” Such a title, obviously, was enough to get me to give it a look.  Kurzweil, to put it mildly, is a computer geek, responsible for many inventions: reading machines for the blind, electronic pianos and synthesizers, programs for music composition, and voice recognition technology.  In the documentary he explained (or theorized) what the evolution of computer technology will look like.  What caught my attention was his vision of blood-cell sized computers injected into humans to enhance brain and immune system capabilities.  This imagined evolutionary development answered some issues I was having with the novel I was working on at the time.           
 
Passive research goes hand-in-hand with traditional means of research and can open up your story to paths you never thought possible. Pay attention to your surroundings; what’s on the news, what you hear during your commute, what you read from day-to-day, and be inspired by where your imagination can take you.                 
 

  

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