IWSG 66: Be Careful What You Search For


This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.



Sadira Stone | Patricia Josephine | Lisa Buie-Collard | Erika Beebe | C. Lee McKenzie 


What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever Googled in researching a story?

This is a thoughtful question and I needed to think about it. I don’t know if I’d call the searches strange. But the results were shocking. Sometimes gross. And more than once sad.

The Watchlist

While Googling it didn’t occur to me right away that I could land up on a list. You know the list I mean—one where one or more countries feel at risk and think terrorist, or murderer.

Some things I read on Facebook made me snicker because the poster would justify their wild and crazy questions. They would ask about what it feels like to drown or the best way to strangle someone from behind. Then remind the reader that everyone was safe because—Hey! A writer doing research.

The Gross

I’ve accidentally found pictures of the dead.

And yes! I knew they were dead before I read the caption.

I shivered for a week over that one.

The Gross Hit Hard

I don’t know how writers write about the real thing. I couldn’t and totally get the cozy mystery. And love and feel blessed they keep the murder and the murdered off centre stage.

The Sad

Another time I Googled missing people. To be honest I had no idea how many people were unaccounted for. And the page I found was for just one Canadian city. It freaked me out.

It became my benchmark and explained why The Pig Farm outside Vancouver, BC went undetected for so long.

My Focus

My stories are all fantastical even if they mimic life. I tend to focus on justice. On white hats winning every time.

We all deserve goodness in our lives. And when it is hard to come by I look at karma. I truly believe anything that is put out there is reflected back at us. Even if I’m not there to see it, I believe everyone gets theirs in the end—good and not so good.

I can’t wait to read the answers this month so off I go.

Feel free to share what you think. I’m all eyes. hehehe

80 responses to “IWSG 66: Be Careful What You Search For

  1. Hi,
    i have no idea why but i just lost my entire comment on your site. So I will try to repeat what I said.
    I have had some pretty bad shocks on certain topics that I have googled. I remember the one on the poem I wrote about the kidnapping of the 200 girls in Nigeria. I was in tears and angry. Tears at what I found on the internet and anger because the world did nothing. I didn’t sleep well for nights thinking of the agony and the abuse.
    Have a great November.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

    • Fact: If there are powerful people, there is abused power and the weak paying the price. I don’t know how these abusers live with themselves and hope karma hits them tenfold.

  2. I couldn’t write about real life mysteries and police and military stuff. Some of it is really grisly.

  3. So far the strangest things I’ve researched are the structure of a typical dungeon, height difference between dwarves and elves, familiars and Wicca spells. Have yet to Google the grisly and horrendous of human nature.

  4. I haven’t done a lot of research since most of the weird stuff in my stories tends to lurk in my imagination. 🙂

  5. Ronel Janse van Vuuren

    And I thought my google history was suspect… I’m probably on various watch lists 😉

    Ronel visiting on IWSG day Year in Review

  6. I am surprised that the Black Helicopters aren’t circling my apartment what with the research topics I’ve Googled!:-)

  7. I would like to write mysteries but worry about all the gore and grissly aspects of it. And I worry about getting on a list too. So sad how many people go missing and some are never found.

  8. It’s interesting how writing takes us into some of the darkest corners of our world. When I find things that are disturbing, I know just how sheltered my life is, and I wonder if I’d be able to manage if I actually encountered some of what I Google.

    • I believe the disturbance you described is an internal shift. It leaves us wiser. I’m pretty sure you’d manage, but like the people involved you’d be changed forever.

  9. I try to be careful with what I look up, and will usually put up a disclaimer on social media if the iffy topic of research is unavoidable. 🙂

  10. There are, indeed, some gruesome images on Google. One of the most bizarre things that happened to me was googling a favorite childhood ice cream store, named after the owner’s nickname, Whitey (it’s available in some grocery stores now). Anyway, googling “whiteys” brought up websites far and away from innocent ice cream. Scary what’s out there.

  11. I need to start writing down the weird things I google so the next time this question comes up I can answer.

  12. Man, I think I would start crying if I looked up missing people. Death and murder, yeah, I’ve watched enough detective shows to not be bothered by those searches, but missing people shake me.

    Great the you look up resources on justice. It’s a good focus to have. 🙂

  13. Oh boy, I’ve googled some crazy stuff, but I think seeing actual dead people would freak me out. It’s hard because you never know where the rabbit hole will lead you.

  14. Real life crime is sometimes more horrible that any fictional thriller. With fiction, at least you know you could close the book, and it will all go away.

  15. We once saw a list of people that were missing on a supermarket billboard for a random town as well and were extremely surprised at how many faces were posted! It’s crazy! So much we don’t know about, unless we stumble across it or start digging, researching, or learning.

    I have no weird research to report! But, I’m curious to see what others answered. I used to believe in karma more when I was younger. I guess I feel like good karma should pay off once in a while to be able to believe in it, as well as live by it. 🙂

  16. Debbie Johansson

    The closest I have seen of images of the dead on the internet are those from the Victorian era when it was an actual ‘thing’. Weird! I don’t think I have been put on the watchlist just yet, but I may be in my future. 😉

  17. Yikes. There’s a surprising amount of sleepless stuff Googled by the IWSG group. I remember the pig farm incident on the news, Penticton or some such? That was chilling.

  18. Love the blog post title. 🙂

  19. Research can be dangerous that way: taking you down some unexpected alleys. @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

  20. I love your end thought. We do all deserve good, even if … sigh … I struggle to think it and say it … but even if we have done bad and repent 🙂 Happy Hop day.

  21. What a great answer. You talked about the shocking but ended with a very nice positive. I like the way you think.

  22. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    I worry more about Alexa sitting on my kitchen counter than my Google research record. I’m sure she gets an earful when I’m upset about the news ~ LOL! In some instances I wish karma would work a little faster, but I try to squelch those thoughts because I don’t want karma coming back to bite me. Have a great month, Anna!

  23. Research can reveal some scary stuff. I like justice to be served in my books too.

    • We are on the same page as long as we aren’t confusing justice with revenge.

      I sometimes see the heroes doing worse things than the villains in the name of the greater good. That’s never okay with me.

      Sorry for spouting. I think Erika’s comment got me thinking about bigger meaner fish.

  24. Data is not as bad as pictures. Oh my! I’ve had nightmares over pictures discovered during research. I have to believe that the bad will be punished. Maybe not in this world but … Have a great month writing.

  25. Sometimes a picture tells us more than any amount of reading ever would. But sometimes maybe we don’t want to know all it can show us!

  26. Hi, I was directed towards you after I posted for this month IWSG about being dumped by my publisher : ( . I was researching drowning a while back and some of those pictures were shocking… I guess you just have to think that the person is no longer there so to speak, it’s just a body a bit like a picture of a bird…

  27. Hahaha, yeah. This made me think of other funny searches and fears that I’ve had, like one time when I was researching various Middle East travel plans for a client – a perfectly legitimate *travel guide* client, I swear! But part of me, back of my mind was like I wonder if this is going to put me on some watch list. =D Just doing research. Not planning a trip.
    Also, yes, the occasional why-oh-why did I NOT do Safe Search!!! That happened to someone I know once who was trying to research three-way radios, because it was a line item for a client, and she didn’t know what it meant, so all she had to go with was the two words they gave her: “three-way.”
    Safe search! So necessary sometimes!
    Anyway, hope you had a great Wednesday!

  28. Yeah, you never know what kind of results will pop up! I too have seen actual pics of the dead and a few were pretty gruesome that stuck with me for a long time.

  29. I remember when that pig farm discovery hit the news. so incredibly sad and horrific. Some research has given me nightmares and disrupted sleep as well. I much prefer the happier state of mind researches as well

  30. Angela Wooldridge

    Sometimes I think my alter ego would like to be an ostrich… (my muse is now jumping up and down about this!)

  31. We’re kindred spirits that’s for sure, Anna, I’m the same way. I love your positive attitude!

  32. What we find on internet searches is indeed shocking at times. I like to write about justice in the end as well–sometimes it doesn’t seem like there’s much justice in the real world, so I want it in fiction!

  33. This week I am just being reminded of how regularly I should clear my browser history!

  34. There’s just no telling what you’re going to get when you google, is there, Anna? A very belated but heartfelt thank you for getting the word out on TumbleStar.

  35. HI Anna,

    Yes, we writers definitely look up some strange and unusual facts. Which to me is a good thing! Making up these ‘so called’ facts diminish the writer. The more research done, the more believable the story!

  36. You can sure come across many strange and disturbing things when you Google.

  37. Victoria Marie Lees

    Fantastical or not, don’t we always want the good to win over the bad? Great post, Anna! All best to you.

  38. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Sorry it took so long for me to drop in here.
    Yeah, I’ve run across some images of dead bodies before; it’s not easy to see. Glad you focus on justice in your writing. Sometimes, focusing on too much realism can be overrated.

  39. Apologies for this late visit to this post – I see I’ve still got your September IWSG thoughts to read too. Emails are burying me faster than I can read them.

    However, research rabbit holes are also to blame – and yes, as a mystery writer I’ve been in some dark corners. I do baulk at the gruesome end of the genre – and research – but find cozies…too cozy. Well, I write police procedurals so they lead me to ‘gritty’.

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