I've started a new novel and the heroine is something of a "mole" or "tunnel rat."
Well... This is something I know nothing about.
The last story I wrote, the heroine was an in-your-face butt-kicking faerie princess. Again, I know very little about being any of those things... Although I do have at least one daughter who is certain she is a real life princess....
And the story before that, the heroine has a pet dragon. Yeah... I wish! Not only do I not own a dragon (my husband while he is on "long-wall move" not considered), but I know nothing about the care and maintenance of the little buggers.
And let's not get started on what little I know about Heroes! (they're male, ergo, not my forte)
I have to "Write What I'd Like to Know" about these things, and set about researching them.
That makes writers some dang good researchers (at least we become that way over time).
I have learned:
There is an amazing place called the "Bone House," or Beinhaus, in Hallstatt, Austria that I absolutely must go see someday! and guess what? It's a sacred place of their loved ones' remains (very similar to the catacombs below Paris, which I did not know about until recently).
There is the Melidoni Cave in Crete where over 300 men, women, and children of a village died of asphyxiation when they went there to hide from the Turkish army, but were found...
The term "Shanghaied" became quite popularly linked to Portland, Oregon (of all places) and there is quite the Urban Legends about the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland that I'm dying to explore (and use in my current book, yes yes!).
And where do I find all of these tidbits of absolutely useless, but fascinating information?
I research in a variety of ways:
The internet (and Wikipedia, Google, AOL search are some of my favorite beginning points)
Non-fiction books (I love picking up books at yard sales, book sales, used book stores, Amazon, libraries)
Travelling (who doesn't love to travel?)
Word of mouth (you would be amazed where the cute little old lady next door went in her day)
Television (there are some great programs on Discover, History Channel)
So, I write about things I'd like to know more about and I learn in the process...