Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Research and Its Funny Effects

I'm a research hound. I get it from my father I think. An example is if I'm watching TV and see something about a cookie cutter shark I pick up my iPod touch and start a fervent search for information about it. No idea why I do this...maybe I'm addicted to knowledge?

Anyway, in the process of writing my first book, THE FREEDMAN AND THE PHARAOH'S STAFF, which is currently being shopped in NY might I add :) I must have bought 20 books about the Civil War and that time period (which is when the book takes place!). Books about the styles of clothes, hair cuts/facial hair, swears, food, slang and all that. Though it's a speculative fiction/fantasy I always need things to be realistic. Voodoo is involved, so I have books about that written by actual practitioners, and even had numerous conversations with some friends from Haiti. They were the most helpful.

Now, I'm nearly done with my second book. It's a medieval fantasy (my favorite) and I have a dozen books about castles, siege warfare/machines/defensives, clothing, armor, weapons and those sort of things. You don't even want to know how many books I have on magic..."real" magic like Aleister Crowley and in the case of evil magic, I a copy of "The Black Arts". Another great book. I often wonder what my cleaning lady thinks when she sees that book...she must think I'm a nut job Lol.

When creating a fantasy world I suppose it makes sense to detach from reality, but I think this is something agents and publishers disagree with. In no way am I an expert in this area, but I have noticed from my days of querying before finding my agent, a lot of agents and publishers stated that fact. I remember one publisher/agent? I forget which, said they wanted realistic fantasy...not talking dogs!

Even the greats like Margaret Weiss keep realism in their writing. People get sick, people die...if I remember correctly, Flint Fireforge died from a heart attack/heart disease as he was chasing after someone. Sad, but realistic...people do die of heart attacks. As did Caramon Majere, now that I think of it.

Keeping faith to even the most basic facts about castles, medieval life, and weaponry can add pounds of world making. Little things...dwarven proverbs...a stereotype against elfs (I don't condone racism, but it happens)...and celebrations/holidays all make for wonderful world building.

A couple agents and some beta readers for my first book have commented, "it's like its own world." THAT makes me happy, because in its own way it is. Reconstruction Louisiana, a place where voodoo is at its heart...common knowledge that is so uncommon to us...like the spreading of brick dust across doorway or in a circle around yourself  keeps those with ill will towards you from crossing over the line. A true belief and practice, but few people outside the culture probably know or believe it.

Anyway, I've probably rambled enough.

So farewell, and keep on writing, and make sure your pen has ink!

Question: What research do you do for your writing, if any at all?

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