The other night I was working on the groundwork for my next novel. It involves two musicians in a competitive situation, and it occurred to me that I didn’t want the two of them to be competing on the same instruments. My protagonist plays the lute, so I couldn’t have his rival be a lutenist also. What other period instruments could he use? The first thing that came to mind was a dulcimer, but I couldn’t remember with certainty how a dulcimer is played.
Not so long ago I would have had to go dig up a copy of an encyclopedia, then try and research further if I liked what was there. I’d likely need a trip to the local library, or perhaps even one at a university. Finding recordings of a dulcimer being played would have been even more difficult to find.
Now-days, of course, I Binged it (sorry, personal preference). Within seconds I found there is more than one kind of dulcimer, and could choose videos of each. I chose the hammered dulcimer, expecting something interesting, but entirely unusable–even annoying (I mean, hammering?!). Silly me. I’m hooked on hammered dulcimers now. I found a number of excellent videos; one described how they are constructed and laid out, and another showed a talented artist playing a piece. My protagonist’s rival will be a hammered dulcimer player.
No, the trouble these days is not finding information, it’s knowing when to stop finding information. This time I was lucky enough to be content listening to more videos while I wrote, but there have been times I’ve gone off researching on small topic and realized hours later that I was miles away from my original destination. Not all of it was wasted, mind you. Much of what I uncovered can be used in other situations. That’s the trouble. It’s easy to justify going on Internet safaris and never accomplish anything, all the while justifying it as “For Research!”
But as I said, this time I was lucky. I found useful information and got back to work. But the Internet is patient. It will wait for my return…