In her last post, Lady Killer Jane mentioned an interesting dilemma that afflicts writers who enjoy their research a little too much. She says that when she uncovers a cluster of interesting facts about her time period--Roman Britain--that don't fit into her book, she just saves them for the next book in the series. This is a distinct advantage to writing series, because if that happens when you're writing a standalone, you've got to have immense self-control to resist shoehorning those irrelevant factoids into your story.
We've all read books where the writer was too weak to resist that temptation. If Jane weren't so strong, she'd be torturing her readers with dialogue like, "You know, my friend Petrus, here in Roman Britain, we have bedbugs the size of hedgehogs." Even if there are no beds anywhere in the whole story, and the plotline is utterly devoid of bedbugs.
(I'm pretty sure bedbugs were of normal size in Britain during Roman times. I made that up. But you know what I mean.)
I recently moderated a panel on research. I truly love my research, but I was afraid that an hour of talking about arcane search engines might put our audience to sleep. Searching for a question to ask that would spice up the conversation, I came up with this one: "What was the most interesting thing you ever learned while researching a book that you weren't able to use?"
Here's how I answered my own question. While researching EFFIGIES, I did a good deal of reading about caves in Mississippi. One of my references mentioned some caves that were out of the ordinary. One cave in particular captured my imagination. First, it is in a sandstone deposit, which is not usual for caves. Second, the sandstone has a high concentration of salt in it. Third, (this one isn't really out of the ordinary, but it's important), the cave is located in a cow pasture.
Now, cows like salt. Can you see where this is going? Somewhere in Mississippi, there is a cave dug completely with cow tongues...