Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Also, I Write

Sometimes, you just have to pull the trigger.

The thing about writing is, once you pull the trigger, you can edit the gun out entirely.

Researching historical fiction set in Late Antiquity has some tricky bits attached. Scholars love writing about Rome, and though, say, the world of Theodoric the Great gets attention along the way, the details about his furniture and sleeping habits - and, say, the schooling of his daughter - are less attended upon. Ironic given these are royals and all.

So, you go in for, say, an attempt to name a slave in the royal household at Ravenna, and you get all sorts of information: about Rome. Very quickly, you begin to note that highly similar tidbits repeat in different sources, none of them *quite* addressing exactly what you need, and yet all of them reflecting one another. This alone can be instructive, even if it's not to the point you wanted to drive to.

Many later Roman slave names were Greek. Not all of the holders of these names were Greek, by, apparently, a long enough shot to mention it.

Slaves' origins were a noted point in buying or assigning them. There were stereotypes of Egyptian and Briton slaves, there were expectations about types of work and types of workers. The concept of "wish-names" - slave names indicating desirable traits or accomplishments - is especially intriguing. "Hedone" is a poignantly telling sobriquet for a woman available for sale.

And then your question becomes: how much does this Roman research apply to my only semi-Roman setting?

How much can I USE, when discussion of place-settings (guitarists please note, this anachronism is an intentional joke) and sleeping habits for the Ostrogoths is less than ubiquitous?

And then the question becomes: how long before I stop thinking about the guitarists, trust myself and my research, and focus on the story ... ?

Research is a wonderful way not to write, sometimes. It's a great excuse, believing "I have to get it right, before I write."

And it's so easy to forget: anything I write, I can edit. The fat lady doesn't sing until you have a contract; even at the query stage, you are still allowed to correct yourself, if you find you actually did write a firearm into a scene starring Theodoric the Great's only daughter, in the year 535. Even when you have an agent - if you're lucky and open to it, an editorial one - the book's not done until the publisher sticks a fork in and it's tender.

Sometimes, you have to pull the trigger.


I've been writing. How about you?


Donnaeve said...

This is almost ESP'ish. I've been researching too. AND. Just yesterday, or day before, I said to my mom, "sometimes I think I ought to just keep writing and worry about the details later," but then...I want to get it right in that moment because I might need to repeat the detail later on, and then again, and next thing I know, that detail is a catalyst for something else. A domino effect, so, I prefer to do the research up front. The thing is...you can't always get what you want! :)

Here's a good example of what I just ran into - and it's similar to what you wrote about in your post regarding finding specific details. In the current WIP, I'm writing a story set in Appalachia in 1940. The family lives on a fictional branch of the Tuckasegee River. To add richness and layers to the story, I needed to know...what can they "SEE" from the Tuckasegee? Because even though I've created this fictional offshoot, I would like to include some of the real places. I've searched all over the internet to determine what can be seen from the Tuckasegee. Can they see Richland Balsam mountain - or any of the Balsams? Since they're the highest peaks nearby, I'd say yes, if they come to a clearing, but I don't really know this for a fact. I've looked at Google satellite views, I've panned the cameras around and I've read Wikipedia about the county, and I've tried to get specific with my searches "What mountains can be seen from the Tuckasegee?" Etc. Etc.

It's exhausting, actually, trying to drill down into this level of detail, only to spend days and still not be sure.

DLM said...

I am an unabashed "panter" writer, and just cannot put research and writing into nice little separate times and boxes. I may only go so far as to plug in something I've learned into the spot I think it needs to be, but I will NOT hold myself back from actually indulging some sketching if the inspiration is there. That is nuts, to me - why would I miss out on the thought that made this piece of research necessary to begin with?

So I sketch away to my heart's content, and give myself permission and/or the semi-scolding reminder that "this is not 'real' writing" and today's must-put-it-down-in-words inspiration may be tomorrow's cut. But I did that thing, and whether it's cut or not, it IS a part of the ultimate writing.

My draft work is more of a rehearsal or an artist's sketch than it is some set period, beginning *here* and ending *there* on a timeline that has a single dimension and no curves.

I have totally used Google satellite - and in trying to look at the Loire river and envision it 1500 years ago, no less! (... and on a novel that may never be published, no less ...) I'm familiar with the exhaustion - and the dangerous temptation to get down that rabbit hole and decide it's actually a nice spot to burrow.

So. Planning a scenic drive anytime soon?

Donnaeve said...

Ha, again with the ESP. I had ended my comment above with "Hubby and me might need to go off on a little road trip." Then I took it out b/c I don't know the feasibility of it right now. BUT. That is what's needed - or - find somebody who knows the area and talk to them.

I'm reading Ron Rash's ONE FOOT IN EDEN right now, and there's all these minute details he lays down that makes his writing so authentic. But he lives in Western NC, and teaches writing at Appalachian State... so, he's got that advantage. I can't imagine trying to find out for the 1500's - when I'm struggling to nail down the early to mid 20th century!

DLM said...

I could WISH it were the 1500s ... I write in the 500s - 1500 years *ago*!

But I figure that means I can make it up.

You are giving me the idea to do my William Golding post. I need to see if I've done this already, but stay tuned.