No Such Thing as Useless Information: The Beauty of Factoids

I own a book called The Perfectly Useless Book of Useless Information. It’s filled with random factoids on various genres. I assume it’s a book people tend to pick up when they’re bored, or sitting in the bathroom, but we writers can use these factoids for much greater purposes than to while away the time or amuse our friends. They are a great source of ideas. In it, I can come up with reasons behind a character’s personality, add some bizarre disease, or get some clues as to purposes behind a plotline. Sometimes just reading a fact leads to ideas I doubt the author intended. Take these, for example:

“The first vending machine was created in 215 BC to dispense holy water.” Isn’t that cool? If an area was heavily infested with, say, vampires, a holy water vending machine would be highly useful, don’t you think?

“Birds in the crow family are said by scientists to be the smartest.” Okay, I guessed that one, but no wonder sinister characters tend to use crows as spies (take Saruman from Lord of the Rings, or Itachi Uchiha from Naruto). It’s not because they’re black, its because they’re smart. Huh. I wonder why the good guys haven’t picked up on that yet.

“Diamonds can burn. They are pure carbon, so when they do burn, they are converted to carbon dioxide and just vaporize, with no ash left behind.” Ooooh! That just screams to be used in a mystery thriller! (I have dibs on this one, guys).

This book even states which day and time is the most popular to rob a bank (midmorning really stirs the criminal blood). It is just these sorts of random bits of information that can spark something really fun and exciting in your work. After all, knowing that “babies born in the winter and the spring are more prone to schizophrenia” could lead to a very interesting character…

I find it very funny to know that I will have more use for this sort of trivia than the unpleasant years of high school math I took…

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nkeda14
    May 18, 2011 @ 19:18:19

    haha this is true! I need a book like this.

    PS: I just knew I would never use advanced geometry! lol

    Reply

  2. Patrick
    May 18, 2011 @ 20:47:15

    The one about dispensing holy water is my favorite!

    Reply

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