Not Doing Research

My articles on Research and the Author are intended to help writers to avoid the mistakes I’ve already made and give ideas about finding out information for their stories. Research is catnip for me. It lures me in to strange places and bewitches and befuddles me until I’m blissed out in interesting and largely useless facts.

Back when I first started writing about the eclectic and eccentric characters at the White Hart in Tales from the White Hart, Kadogan was already fascinated by candles. He watched them, counted them, arranged them and complained about them endlessly. In the latest instalments in Back at the White Hart, Kadogan has decided to invest in candle making equipment, which makes sense to him but no-one else. What could go wrong? Anyone who knows Kadogan thinks that plenty could go wrong and the potential for unexpected fires, runaway fragrances and cursed wicks are endless.

Writing classes always advise new authors to write what they know. I know nothing about candles but can’t resist the fun that I can have mixing Kadogan with candle making. I considered doing real life research and making a few candles so I looked around for an easy and inexpensive candle making kit to get an idea of how it could go. Sometimes it’s all about the details. I’d love to be able to add a touch like the smell of melting wax or the feel of the wicks. I had a look on eBay, which is my normal starting point.

On the surface, this seemed like a good idea. I love candles. There’s one burning as I type this. It’s nicely fragrant, slightly crackly and bought from the supermarket. I ask for candles for birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day. My son knows to candle me up on all gift giving occasions. Making candles seems like a logical next step. However all the adult kits that are the most like the experience of proper candle are extremely comprehensive. There are bundles that are quite reasonably priced that include melters and hot plates and thermometers along with ample supplies. For less than £50 at the time of typing I could find a kit that includes 200 wicks, although perhaps enough wax for ten candles or so.

But I can see the slippery slope. If I’ve got all this kit along with the spare wicks, it couldn’t hurt to pick up a little wax and fragrance and dye to make a few more. Surely it would be more cost effective, even if I priced it against supermarket candles. I could spend perhaps an evening or two and churn out a dozen candles. There are two good reasons why I shouldn’t consider it.

The first very good reason is that I am accident prone. I drop things. I spill things. I scald myself in improbable situations. My family never trusted me with jam making as I couldn’t be trusted with boiling fruit and sugar. I once set fire to a chip pan full of fat and far too many of my family are surprised that I only did that once. There is no way I can be trusted with melted wax – it’s a fire hazard and scald hazard combined.

The second excellent reason is that I have a shopping habit that gets out of control when it comes to hobbies. Knitting is a good example. I enjoy knitting but I love shopping for knitting. My yarn stash can be measured in heaps and I have random bags with needles, tape measures, patterns, bodkins and stitch markers all around the house. The amount of yarn I’ve accumulated due to seeing a really good deal when my impulse control was looking the other way is ridiculously large. I’ve a surprising amount of sewing kit as well, considering that I’m scared of my sewing machine. If candle making joined all my other hobbies, it wouldn’t stay in a small corner. I’d see a deal on wax or wicks and, before I knew it, candle making gear would be spilling out of the cupboards along with all the rest of my hobbies.

I thought very carefully about all of this. There are a multitude of videos on YouTube about candle making and I can watch them without risking burning myself or overdoing the shopping. Not only that, I can knit while watching those videos and decrease the yarn stash at the same time.

I’m skipping the real life research. I hope my reasoning helps other writers make informed conditions about when research on YouTube is good enough.

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