The joys of research
In an earlier blog, I talked about research, world-building, and the traps to avoid when laboring through that. Today I would like to expound on that subject a little, as something happened this last week that reminded me that I ignored one aspect when I talked about doing research for your book, the surprise discovery, which is today’s subject. When world-building, as you advance in your research, most times you will find a path that fits well with your story, and this will bring you to focus the research on the elements that are relevant to the direction you have chosen. When this happens, it becomes easy to overlook features that could become turning points or help you to be more specific about some aspects of your world. Or you may find them later in the process.
Like I said, this happened to me last week. My research on Fairy lore is in the advanced stages, and words have begun to be typed onto the screen as the story begins to rise from my mind into the waking world. Then I came across new information, and something clicked. A part of the story was yet to be developed because I didn’t have enough information to decide what to do with this notion. I was comfortable with my notes, although I knew I would have to create parts of the world without enough information, and this new input was precisely what I needed. I didn’t know I had big questions left in the back of my mind when I found this, and that’s my point. Even if you have logged through thousands of pages, or websites, or visits to the library, there will always be some part of the research that is open to new input. You must keep your mind open to that.
For example, when I was writing Cosmic Consciousness, I was almost at the end when I found out that Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman had also done some research on the possibility of the physical existence of the collective unconscious. All my research had taken me down a path laid by Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, but this extra discovery helped me complete the character of Ayla Karemi, who turned out to be pivotal at the midway mark of the book. Had I kept my head down and ignored the information I found, it’s possible I would have tossed that character aside and the book would have been that much weaker.
But I digress, my point today is to make sure you stay alert to anything that can better your work, anything that can give substance to your story. Even if the research is complete, even if you have hundreds of pages of notes, there may still be that one thing that makes everything click together. I would go as far as to say that even if your first draft is almost done, and you find something that would make your story more relevant, take the time to see if and where you could fit that into your manuscript before moving on to editing.
To give you a glimpse of my discovery this week as an example, my research was focused on Fey lore from before the Victorian era. This era has been identified as the moment in time when Fairies were granted wings and made cute looking, but I had nothing else to lean on to explain why it came to be this way. The story, tentatively called “the Rade”, was to take place in the present time, but all my research was from a long-gone era. I had found some solutions to my problem but felt they were going to stick out as the weak point in the structure. Then, while scrolling through some Fey imagery to get a feel on how to describe them and their surroundings, I found a university paper about modern changes in Fairy folklore. It explains how the lore surrounding them changed, and why, with clarity. This has helped me immensely and could have been overlooked. It’s possible I did overlook this when reading through my research, as it had no bearing in the path I chose at that time. To conclude, keep an open mind at every step of the process, you never know what might pop up and give you the necessary munitions to make your book better.
I would go as far as saying this mental approach applies to most situations in our lives. Even if we have the necessary knowledge to function in our everyday responsibilities, we must stay open-minded to new ways of thinking and doing, lest we sink into a sequence of habits that keeps us isolated, and dare I say, ignorant.
Talk soon, take care, everybody!