Frequently during the course of writing a story, I will need to stop in order to research some particular detail. I don’t usually mind this: indeed, very often I find it fun to track down some obscure fact or other which I would not otherwise have cause to learn*. However, there are times when it can be really, really inconvenient.
In particular, the story that I’m writing right now centres around magic tricks. There’s really no way around it, I’m afraid–no magic tricks, no story. And while I can bullocks my way through most of the more advanced magic tricks**, I need to explain a few simple ones*** just to set it all up in terms of verisimilitude. I also need to have some deeper idea of what is actually going on in more advanced tricks in order to get some idea of what is, or is not, physically reasonable in terms of illusions.
Unfortunately, as you might imagine, magic tricks can actually be very difficult to research effectively–even in this age of the Internet, magicians are really not fucking around with the whole secrecy thing. There are ways around it, of course (I suspect that I might need, at some point later on, to consult with an actual magician if only just to ask ‘I need this, this and this to happen–is this something that could be done?’), but it does make my work much more difficult****.
*For example, one story that I wrote a few years ago necessitated reading field linguistic reports about an indigenous nation in central Suriname.
**In much the same way, as my friend noted a few days ago, that Breaking Bad never really tells you how to cook crystal meth.
***That is to say, tricks which are old enough and widely enough understood that they may be considered ‘public domain’ (although I must admit, I’m a bit unclear even as to where that line is drawn, and I don’t want to accidentally commit exposure).
****Sadly, I myself have the approximate manual dexterity of a cabbage–which is why I am not a magician, musician or card shark.