So, as all of my other co-bloggers here at The Night Bazaar have mentioned (thanks guys!) I’m giving away a signed copy of Southern Gods this week to a randomly picked commenter. Comment on any blog entry this week and your name goes into the hat. It’s that easy.
Research. In my mind there’s two types that come into play when you’re writing fiction, and I’ve dealt pretty extensively with both. But before we get into that, let’s define it, shall we?
Research (for ficiton): When an author must go to reference, source materials to provide verisimilitude in his or her prose, providing enough detail in the reader to trust the author and suspend their disbelief.
That’s my working definition, anyway.
I’ve had to do extensive research for my novels in two instances. The first was for Southern Gods. Because parts of SG are set in 1880 and 1951 and a few years in between, in Arkansas, and many possible readers would be alive during that time with some frame of reference. I knew I had to get things right, otherwise the book would be a big steaming pile. I strove for historical veracity.
The deal with research like that is if you do a lot of it, you’re tempted to use it all and that can be intrusive. You have to know your time period (or, say you’re writing SF and dealing with currently extant technology, you have to know your science) well enough where the details can be flowed into the work. Woven into the fabric of the story.
There’s another sort of research which is far more fun, though. It occurs in the formative stages of the book’s developments and is one of the reasons I love fantasy so much. It’s the imaginative stage of research where facts, history, and the amalgam of knowledge blend into a kind of mash that ferments in your brainpan and when it’s decanted, it comes out as concept. It’s more about aura and tone and style and over arching aspects of the book, like setting. It’s less about accuracy and more about ambiance.
For example, when I decided I was going to write a divergent/alternate Roman history, I read a lot of source material, from Suetonius to Cicero to Caesar himself and other historians. I read Ovid and Herodotus and I reread Edith Hamilton and Robert Graves I, Claudius and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, not to mention reading Lindsey Davies, Steven Saylor and Robert Harris. I read shitloads of non-fiction about the Roman Republic and Empire.
But when I set out to write my alternate history, I wasn’t a slave to accuracy because, damn it, this is a freaking fantasy novel. (I was, however, CONSISTENT in my inaccuracy and aware I was doing it, which, in my mind, makes it okay).
Anywho, if you’re going to be a professional writer, you’ll have to research something, someday, even if it’s something common and mundane. So I suggest you be nice to your local librarians. There’s just no substitute for visiting your local library.
That is all.