“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

A moment on research…

I love sociology. I love history. I love anthropology and archeology.

These are the words that should be on the words of all fantasy and science fiction writers. For any who dare not for fear that they are somehow taking away from their own work I say bah!

Many stories are written with inspiration coming from some society torn from the pages of history, dare I say Lord of the Rings is not steeped with Celtic Druidic beginnings? Most dystopian post apocolypse works are they not inspired at least at the core from feudalist japan historical data?

 

Observe a society, any society, do the research and I promise you that you will find a story there. One that no matter your genre, you will find a story.

Take for example the Romani. Most of us know them by their more derogatory name “Gypsies”

The romani had a unique way of living their life and it all starts as a child. You see, much like the native american tribes. Romani children belong to the entire kumpania. If one went back and studied this you would find that a Romani queen is called a Kralisi. I wont say what other author has a word such as “Kra LEE see” Any fantasy fan will know of another who has a word of similar phonetics. Upon research you will find that the horseback riding group from across that sea, while not on the surface, have roots that seem to mimic these once noble romani.

 

Need a female hero? Read the story of Queen Boudicca, Bodicea or any other name that noble Iceni woman holds on saxon tongues. She drove the Romans back. No one knows what really happened to the Iceni Queen. All we really know is how she made battle hardened Roman soldiers quake in the sandles. But more than this, study the mechanics of the tribes of the area. See if you can find that little piece of inspiration.

 

There are dangers to this of course and I’m not talking about plagarism. I’m talking about research becoming a crutch. Without giving my story completely away I tell you, I started writing this story about Port Royal. I have done the research and there really isn’t much fiction out there in the world of pirates. Not anything totally true to history in any case.

So I started researching, I read about Port Royal Jamaica. I was absolutely fascinated. Fact after fact. The place was a boiling kettle. The spanish were getting so much gold from their expeditions into the new world. Their ships were coming back heaping with gold more gold than anyone else could claim. I thought about this a moment and a question was formed.

“If Spain had so much gold coming in, how well did they contain themselves? Gold meant wealth, wealth meant arrogance. arrogance meant provocation of ones enemies, or at least provocation of those considered to be rivals. Enter Religion? Spain is predominantly Catholic, was the Vatican at all at work in this?”

The list goes on and on. One idea flows after another and finally I figure out I am going to write this novel with the City itself as the Main Character. While not the protagonist the city can be the main character. Anyone who has seen the HBO series “Deadwood” could understand. The Main character in that series was the city itself.

As always I looked at it from a sociological point of view. Pirates….these are the ruthless, mean men of the seas. Their lives were hard and short in many cases. They never let their guard down, not ever. They were the vilest of men, liars, theives and lived by their own codes. However, there are records of common citizens in Port Royal. Sailmakers living to be 70 years old and such. There are reports that all children HAD to attend school. There was no option NOT too.  Again my mind turned and churned in wondering, “how in the world did these people all live together and survive each other?”

On and on I researched, I switched gears, I wanted heavy documentation, I wanted to do this remarkable period in the worlds history justice. I wanted to tell the story. The Real Story as I saw it. I needed to learn the lingo. I can’t go and write the words “Ahoy there Matey!” and expect to be taken seriously. So I wanted authentic slang, wording, customs, etiquette and before you know it. Im doing more research than writing.

 

So the question then becomes, How much knowledge is enough? I suppose it is up to each and every author. As long as the writer is writing it doesn’t matter.  I would suggest the following, write another piece. Currently, I am writing something that I dont have to do any research at all on. I have done so much research my library of knowledge is better than it was and I have many resources to pull from should I need them. While I write this one piece I am doing my research on my other.

 

 

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One response

  1. Alex Hurst

    This was a great post; I totally agree. I love the research element of story-writing, even when I’m not writing historical fiction. Research is how the bones and tendons are formed; the backbone that the muscle of your creativity sets into motion.

    I love the idea of your story too. It sounds amazing. Can’t wait to read it some day (and yes, I agree about Deadwood.. I’m blowing through it right now… only one season to go!)

    April 27, 2013 at 3:27 pm

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