More about the process: The research starts (but never ends)
This would be the third installment in my little “How I write a book” series; click the tag below for all of them. It’s my continuing effort to understand myself and have a cogent answer for people when they ask me that dreaded “are you a plotter/pantser/pepper” question.
Warning: Overextended analogies ahead.
At this point in my process, I have characters. I have this constellation of “moments” that I believe I can string a plot around. My next step is to take all these wild ideas I have–like, “Ooh, what if she gets on a ship for the West Indies!” or “Ooh, what if he runs for Parliament!” and let historical reality crush them. Mua ha ha.
No, not really.
For a writer of historical romance–okay, at least for this writer of historical romance–research is a chicken-and-egg thing. Meaning, I eat a lot while I do it.
No, okay, seriously. It usually starts out as, “Here’s the story I want to tell. How can I make it historically plausible?” (Note, I am relatively unconcerned about it being historically probable. It’s more than okay with me if I have my characters doing highly unlikely things–that makes for good story, IMO. I just try to avoid having them do chronologically impossible things.)
So I crack open that egg and start the research, and discover all the defects in that perfect, fluffy adorable little chick of a plot I’d been dreaming about. I have the inevitable moments like these:
“What do you mean, they didn’t have metronomes in 1815!?! My entire plot hinges on a missing super-spy metronome! *headdesk*” (This would be a random example. While I admire those authors who can write convincing Regency spies, I know I am not one of them. At least, not yet.)
But as the research progresses, I find myself getting new ideas. This is where that imperfect chicken starts laying some eggs. Some are good eggs and some are bad eggs, but hey–free eggs! For example, when I was researching the second book of my trilogy, Surrender of a Siren, I read several first-person accounts of sea voyages to and from the West Indies, and those accounts were where I got the idea for many of the scenes in the book. Certain traditions and experiences popped up in book after book, and I decided my characters should endure enjoy the same. (Really, how could I miss the chance to put my hero in a toga?)
So…um…at this point I have…an imperfect but oddly endearing chicken, that’s starting to look cute despite its flaws. And a bunch of eggs, just full of golden, yolky possibility.
Let’s start cookin’!
Of course, as I write the book, I keep researching. A thousand little questions arise along the way. “Just how does one milk a goat?” for instance. (Answer here.)
Note to self: I really should have breakfast before I blog.
My apologies to CM for any offense to her beloved totem, the most honorable and venerated chicken.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever found yourself researching for a book? Any favorite sources to share?