Someday my internet history is going to get me in trouble. For Random Side Project, I've Googled how you'd go about joining the hacker group Anonymous, what the most valuable personal information on the 'net is, and how to steal and resell it. I've researched Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and what characterizes it. For The Novel, I've watched countless YouTube videos on pressure points, how to KO someone in one hit, and the proper way to wield a sword. It's a lot of fun. But you might see how that could raise some eyebrows.
Writing, I've discovered, takes a lot of research. Anything you haven't actually experienced (and in my case, that's a loooong list) you have to get from somewhere else. Whether that's an emotion, an event, or a personality quirk, I refuse to guess at how something would make someone feel—I want to understand, as much as possible, what I'm writing about.
One of the classes I attended at PPWC 2012 was called Deep, Deeper, Deepest and it was all about channeling emotion in writing. "How do you write about losing someone if you've never experienced it?" someone asked. Our teacher assured us we didn't need to avoid an issue just because we hadn't gone through that exact tragedy (and we wouldn't have many books if that was the rule). "Recall a memory similar to the emotion," she said. "And deepen from there." So perhaps you haven't had an arm hacked off, but you've broken your wrist. Or even, stubbed your toe. Take that, deepen it. "You can also visit support forums and search videos for examples of people who actually have gone through what your character(s) are going through, or something very similar."
I've been fortunate enough to stumble across some fantastic novels with issues similar to my characters'. Personally, these work the best for me. I get to spend a week fully immersed in the issue, and most books cover the whole arc of emotion from tragedy to healing. And I get to study craft. And heck, I love to read.
What's in your internet history that's going to get you in trouble? (And YES, it has to be related to writing...)