So as a writer I have found myself googling some pretty weird things over the last couple of years; I have spent the last four years working toward a real interest in forensic anthropology and have googled some really really creepy stuff (child abuse, signs of child abuse, textbook fracture patterns in child abuse, textbook fracture patterns in non-accidental deaths) but somehow the range of googling I do for the sake of literary *art* is more astounding.
“What is the decibel range of human speech?”
“Popular eastern European first names”
“Glenn or Glen?”
“Cities in USA with high eastern european populations”
Those five searches were in the last hour or so and all for the same first chapter of a book with barely a rough outline for the rest of it. The first chapter is barely an embryo, less than three pages long, and already I am hitting stumbling block after stumbling block. How do I find a place that fits the people I need to make the story work? If I can’t, do I just make a place up? I like the idea of the second option but that throws up a whole heap of difficult issues; where do I put it? I have found the problem before when writing The First Tail and The Second Tail, and now while tackling The Last Tail. Like names, places provide a sense of attachment to the story and allow the reader to anchor themselves in some level of reality so that the surreality of the fantasy can be more readily accepted. The whole concept of acceptance is really quite important; today I made the decision to use a town that actually exists, but in TST I have gone the other way for the sake of simplicity. Just thinking about whether or not to use a real town has got me thinking and I think that maybe in this small way writing is like a magic show. Unless you’re five years old you probably don’t believe in magic; you know that the man in the cape and top hat isn’t actually performing the miraculous feats he claims to be but if you accept it then the show can be incredibly entertaining. In the same way, readers most likely know that the dragon flying about on the page isn’t real and won’t fly out to eat you but if you accept enough information the author gives you then you can still be scared of that dragon. It’s about the emotional engagement and the ability to actually make the reader love and hate your characters is so important.
How does my string of googling link to this concept?
Well it’s all about research. I’m not saying that research is the key to writing a good book, but it sure goes a long way… even if it’s about dragons, witches and the elves in the wood…