What would the FBI make of your search history?

I was about as mercifully unaware of the Casey Anthony trial as someone living in Central Florida can possibly be. I mean, obviously I heard about the mystery, the discovery of the body, the trial, and the verdict, but I wasn’t obsessed about it like a lot of other people seemed to be, nor does the verdict keep me up at night. Hey, I wasn’t on the jury; what the heck do I know? I’m struggling a bit to understand why some people have a sense of outrage over this crime that isn’t mirrored by their outrage over every other equally horrible thing done to some other child. You would think this was the only child ever murdered, and, further, you would think these people had personally inspected all the evidence.

But enough–more than enough, really–about Casey Anthony. Like I said, I’m not interested in talking about her. The only reason I bring her up was, in the aftermath of the verdict, one of the things I heard from some media outlet I’ve long since forgotten was that investigators discovered, on some computer that Anthony had access to, a Google search for how to make chloroform.

And I thought, well shoot, I’ve done that.

This blog isn’t intended to be only for writers, but I know most of the hits I get are from other writers, and I bet you all know exactly what I’m talking about.

Most stories have antagonists, and, if you write genre fiction, your antagonist probably isn’t a cheating husband or a demeaning boss. Your antagonist is likely some level of evil. And if you write genre fiction, the stakes are probably high. Your antagonist probably intends to do some pretty effed-up stuff.

Which means, to make him credible, you have to learn exactly how to be the best bad guy you can be. And, short of cultivating experience in robbing banks or making doomsday devices, the best way to sound credible about being evil without leaving your living room is Google.

So I’ve got a pretty messed up search history. I have, over the years, researched how to make chloroform, details about clinical vampirism (real life people who are addicted to drinking blood. Yum!), abduction by Amazon river dolphins (don’t ask), common con routines, how jails are laid out, Greyhound’s policy on children riding alone, hotlines for runaways, and, most recently, how to quietly overthrow the US government.

Photo by Anonymous900, CC by 2.0

I’m sure there are other eyebrow-raising searches I’ve made that are slipping my mind right now; these are just the tip of the iceberg.

What about you, writer friends? What searches have you performed that would just freak out your muggle neighbors?

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14 Responses to What would the FBI make of your search history?

  1. David Flor says:

    As a game designer, you should see some of my searches. Forget the FBI… I’m sure I’m on several lists at the ATF and DHS.

  2. Joe says:

    Hello? Examples?? :p

  3. MKHutchins says:

    I discovered that there are blocked/adult videos on Youtube when I was looking up home-made fireworks. I was searching for low-tech arson solutions for my epic fantasy novel. On the upside, before I got warnings across my screens, I did learn how to make sparklers out of marshmallows. And how to make charcoal, which I didn’t know before.

  4. Joe says:

    Low tech arson? That’s awesome! 😀

  5. Julie Musil says:

    I’ve searched for overhead maps of an Army base, which doesn’t look good to an outsider. I’m marinating my next idea in my head right now, and the searches I’ll need to do will look equally bad. But hey, at least we have a valid excuse!

  6. David Flor says:

    Examples? Do you want the FBI reading your blog even MORE?

    You should be well aware of my affinity with weapons. I’ve researched them all, and know more than could be considered healthy.

  7. Joe says:

    You looked up weapons? You and every fifteen year old boy. :p

    Come one, dude. We’re talking about making chloroform, arson on a budget, and overthrowing the US government!

    Bah, you’re just a piker.

  8. Tom Emmons says:

    My searches are a lot like yours. Add mind control techniques.

  9. Joe says:


    No! My WIP is a mind-control story!

    Wait–do you have something to do with that?!

  10. Marlana says:

    Hilarious. You’re going to have to tell about Amazon river dolphins some time. I wanted pics of some teens as inspiration for my protag and supporting characters. — Yeah. Note to self. Never Google images for young teen boy / girl!

  11. Joe says:

    LOL! I think you win the thread!

  12. Stephanie says:

    Lol Marlana! I’ve made that mistake too… then I discovered http://www.deviantART.com/. I’ve found it’s much easier to search their artistic photos/sketches/etc. for character inspiration…

  13. Joe says:

    I’ve seen deviantART before, but I’m going to make a point of using it to look for images next time. Thanks for the rec!

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