Erowid, BME, & Little Details

I like writing about addicts. I don’t know why. I suffer no addictions myself. No addiction more serious than cigarettes has touched my family. But there’s something fascinating about a character whose motivations stem from something dark and hard within them.

Herein lies the problem: write what you know utterly fails me here. I lived with a friend who smoked pot when I graduated high school1; I have a handful of relatives and friends who roll that way as well, or used to. That’s it. Beyond my skin-deep understanding of the lifestyle of mid-twenties recreational pot smokers, I need research. For that, I have Erowid.

I have a love/hate relationship with Erowid. The layout is ridiculous; it’s like someone designed it in 2001 and hasn’t looked back. But you know what? The information is great, and there is a lot of it. Psychotropic plants and legality and chemistry? Seriously, if you’re going to write about a drug, check it out.

Body Modification Ezine (BME) is another interesting resource for writing about characters — and it feels significantly more modern! They’ve got a pretty solid wiki and there are lots and lots of photos and thousands of personal stories. I feel like it’d be a solid resource for character concepts., if you were writing about someone with heavy modifications or wanted to see inside the head of someone who does.

My other favorite? Little Details on LiveJournal, which has the ever-so-awesome tag line “A Fact-Checking Community for Writers.” It’s not supposed to replace the basic Google/Wikipedia search, but rather to augment it with personal experience. Like, first the page (as of this writing) has posts about what to call a collection of dragons, help translating phrases into Chinese, how two semi-nolbes would refer to a Pharaoh in conversation, and my favorite post — wherein the author was convinced not to write the story in question: “Would mandatory gayness shrink Earth’s population?”

To go a little more mundane, I couldn’t name characters without Seventh Sanctum. It’s got a generator for pretty much everything — there are fourteen different categories of generators, and sub-generators beyond that. If you just need a placeholder or if anything will do, it’s the place to go.

1. And, you know, once in a while I helped. I’m not ashamed of it.

Ashley M. Hill found her voice in science fiction when her curiosity about technology coupled with the lifelong urge to tell stories. Her interest in social and feminist issues shapes how she approaches the genre. She's pursuing computer and network repair for her day job.

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