Casual Research

Every week a notice pops up in my inbox telling me that I have a new issue of US News and World Report online. I love this magazine and was hideously upset to see it go and have my subscription commandeered by Time (bleh) but that is another story. When I happily click on the  link, I always visit the science section, read five articles and file the information for use later. Below are three that I found interesting.

Perception of gender is associated with touch.

If I am touching something hard, I am most likely to regard a gender neutral face as male; on the other hand, if I’m touching something soft she is a female. If I am pressing hard against something the face is a male. But if I’m not, the face is female.

How can I use this? Easy, every writer needs to use body language to bring their characters to life.  So if my heroine is strokes a soft pillow the reader may subliminally think ultra feminine.

Another tidbit mentioned in the article was that if a person carried a heavier clipboard than another person, the person with the heavier clipboard is percieved as being more important. The only problem I have with this is that most wealthy (and self important) people don’t carry around more than their egos (which are invisible). Perhaps that’s why they have an entourage?

Vikings didn’t just rape and pillage.

Seems when they settled, these fearsome warriors vandalized the environment too. All that cutting to create farms during a warm period wrecked so much havok that they caused their own serfdom. News at 11. Um, I think the issue of serfdom is a bit more complicated than that, but might be a good place to start a story.

Laboring Ants

Far and away, this article excited more gray cells than the two previous combined. Not only did it give us some pertinent facts, it excluded the dramatic conclusions.

For instance, if you’re creating a society why not base it on a division of labor–such as queen, soldiers and workers. What happens when you have too much of one and not enough of the others? How does such an imbalance effect the society? In ants each group is nutured from birth, what would happen if such a system is overthrown or just no longer supported by those in charge? Another nugget is that the males are fairly useless in the society. Once they’re mature, they go out and find another queen then die shortly there after. What happens if the male doesn’t die?

Oh the possiblities.

Of course the information in the article isn’t only useful in world building. Humans have division of labor currently–we’re not all farmers, truck drivers, bakers or soldiers. So what happens in our carefully constructed world when we can’t get power, water or food? When the city girl goes hiking and gets lost in the woods? This would be known as the fish out of water scenario, a popular one in many novels and movies. As an added bonus, the article mentioned how the division of labor might help computers solve problems faster.

So what have you read that added an extra twist to your story?

About Linda Andrews

Linda Andrews lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, Arizona. When she announced to her family that her paranormal romance was to be published, her sister pronounce: "What else would she write? She’s never been normal." All kidding aside, writing has become a surprising passion. So just how did a scientist start to write paranormal romances? What other option is there when you’re married to romantic man and live in a haunted house? If you’ve enjoyed her stories or want to share your own paranormal experience feel free to email the author at She’d love to hear from you.
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