How to Research Without Seeming Like a Serial Killer

You’d be surprised how many times people ask me this question.

When people find out the kind of things I write about, they inevitably ask me this at least once. I usually make a joke, something about needing to buy a pig farm for people who ask too many questions, but I’ve never seriously thought about it. That is until the other day when one of the other mods suggested it as a topic. I've been thinking about it for three days solid, trying to figure out if there is a way to not leave similar footprints as someone looking to commit a murder.

After careful consideration, I've come to the conclusion that I have no idea how to avoid it.

Seriously, in this day and age, as tracked as we are, we leave clues behind. A good VPN and a TOR web browser are about the only things I could think of, and even those only go so far.

I considered purchasing books, but almost every purchase you make in your life now a days is tracked in some form or another. Even if you pay with cash, there's no guarantee that the store doesn't keep a video record.

I thought, I'll head over to the library, but even there I am tracked. In order to use the computers, you have to sign in and leave a footprint.

I couldn't think of a way that was 100 percent foolproof, and then I realized that's one of the things that separates us writers from killers. We're still trying to figure it out, and serial killers think they have it figured out.

Then the conversation changed in my head. It stopped being what can I do to avoid looking like a murderer, and switched to what can I do to avoid walking and talking like one.

I came to the conclusion that research is fine. You can do all the research you want, and you may set off a red flag or two, but nothing nefarious is going to happen to you for furthering your knowledge (subject to change, who knows where we're headed in this surveillance state).

What happens is some random person crosses the line, and it makes the rest of us doing research look bad. For instance, going on Google and looking up how to get rid of a body. Nothing wrong with that.

Looking up what's needed to run a pig farm, and what parts of the human body they will eat is perfectly fine.

Searching your local area for a pig farm you can purchase, a little creepy but still haven't crossed any lines.

Buying said pig farm “for the bacon”, setting off alarm bells, but you can still turn back.

Gutting that prick who cheated you, and dropping his corpse into the pig trough, well now you have crossed a line.

At the end of the day, I don't worry about looking like a serial killer anymore. Instead I focus on not walking like one.

So do your research, and focus on your gait. Keep being awesome and #SupportIndieAuthors

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