The things I never wanted to learn about

But that my characters insisted upon.

No, I’m not one of those writers who insist that characters take on lives of their own. I realize that if they do live at all, they live inside my head, with all the limitations that implies, including my personal knowledge base and what I’ve always thought must be the limits to my creativity. Just because it feels like my characters have taken off into left field doesn’t mean that it wasn’t me doing that to them.

Or so I keep trying to tell myself.

But if that’s the case, then how did I end up learning about 1950s motorcycles, gunshot wounds and gangrene, and childbirth in a cabin on Bonanza Creek in the Klondike in 1898? Not to mention the care of a newborn then and there. It certainly wasn’t because I felt the need to on my own account.

Admittedly, some topics my characters have needed to know about have been fascinating. 19th century eyeglasses, various horse mechanics and equipment, how bricks are made, the early scientific research on geysers and how it was conducted. Courting in the 1870s. And the resulting marriages. The history of photography. Early tourist services in Yellowstone National Park and the people who ran them. The Nez Perce Indians. The process of mining gold in the frozen Klondike. Then there’s the whole basic food and clothing and shelter business at various times in various places, by various kinds of people, which is always interesting.

But I don’t care much for motorcycles, thank you. And while I respect the many, many women who went through childbirth in various primitive conditions, I really didn’t want to know the gory details. Most of all, I seriously did not enjoy learning how to realistically kill one of my characters via gangrene resulting from a gunshot wound to the hip in 1877. But I did, and I hope I did a reasonable job of it, even if judging from the way it turned out it was pretty darned painful. More than even that character deserved.

So, what good stuff, and bad stuff, have your characters insisted that you learn about recently?