Mythology, History, and Research — June 28, 2012

Mythology, History, and Research

So, I’ve been reading up on the history of Scandinavia and Norse mythology for my research for this new book. I’m feeling totally overwhelmed. I’ve never paid much attention to history. Sure, I’ve gleaned a certain amount of knowledge over the years when it comes to Greece and Rome, and even Egypt to an extent. Those are the cultures which heavily influenced the regions from whence my ancestors came, Britain and so on, which in turn have a massive influence on America.

But when it comes to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland (and apparently Germany but not Finland), their mythology and history, I’m at a loss. The mythology includes Germany but not Finland, while the history includes Finland but not Germany. The physical territory, the different peoples who fought and migrated, united and tore themselves apart, it’s all foreign to me.

It’s fascinatingly foreign, but I’m starting to feel overwhelmed again when it comes to the research for this book. The mythology is fascinating. I read “D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths” as part of my research. It was a good introduction to the gods and stories this book is set to focus on. (It’s geared, I think, to younger children, but again a good introduction.)

But heaven help me if I try to research it further. The deeper I dig, the more names appear. I have another book of mythology that encompasses lots of different regions. The section on the myths of the Nordic lands goes much deeper, including Germany, Russia, and other Slavic regions.

I’m caught in a vicious cycle. The more research into the mythology I do, the more I realize I need to research the history. Then the more I research the history the more frustrated I become so I dive deeper into the mythology.

This book has been brewing in my head for 3 years now. It’s changed shape a few times and I’ve shelved it several times as well. But it’s still there, demanding to be written. If only I can get through the research.

The other thing that makes me freeze when it comes to research? Knowing that no matter how much research I do, there will always be people out there who will rip me up one side and down the other over my “lack of research.” Sigh. I want to do this story, the area of the world it’s focusing on, justice, but I’m terrified of the prospect.

Which means I should totally be writing this story, right? What we’re afraid of will make us stronger if we face it? Something like that?

Researching — June 21, 2012

Researching

Not the most imaginative title I’ve ever come up with, I grant you. But it’s on my mind and it’s such a boring topic that really there’s no better fit.

I’m currently in the throes of researching for the next book I was planning to write. And it’s killing me. I mean, a slow, painful death at the hands of the driest words to ever have been crafted (save for perhaps Heart of Darkness, Wuthering Heights, or The Great Gatsby).

Every so often I pull this story idea out of the dust bin and attempt to do the research necessary for plotting the story. And when I do I’m immediately reminded of one of the many reasons the idea was shelved in the first place.

When I was working on Lodestar (thought I’d never mention that one again, didn’t you? Ha!), I never had this much trouble getting into the research. The research for that one was actually quite interesting. I mean, researching the Air Force, astronomy, and NASA. And really most of that research on NASA and the Air Force got cut in subsequent drafts because it was bogging the story down.

Now I’m researching and it’s draining me. And weighing on me. I’m nigh to shelving the project again, only this time burning all the materials so I can never go back to the idea.

I think what’s hardest for me in all this research is what I’m researching. The sequel and the sequel’s sequel won’t be much better. Why? Because I got this crazy idea in my head that instead of dealing with the cultural history of the West (Ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome through to Britain and America), I’d deal with the cultural history of Scandinavia (book 1), Russia (book 2), and Japan (book 3). (Book 3 also at one point was supposed to deal with Ireland, but then I changed my mind.)

Someone take away my parenthesis privileges.

The problem with that? I have no base line of knowledge that I’m starting with so diving into any book I might pick up in the name of research means I’m lost from word one.

Not fun.

I think I’ll just go retreat into my fantasy worlds where I control the shape and landscape of everything. And I know all the history because I created it.

Now I Know Everything — January 20, 2011

Now I Know Everything

Okay, not really.

But I know a little bit about a lot of things.  This week I’ve been talking about my process of writing what I know.

My main character in Lodestar, Derek, is many things.  He’s a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, an astronaut who serves on the ISS, a fencer, an archer, a son, a hero.

A good chunk of the novel takes place in outer space.  There are scenes on the ISS, scenes in the NASA training center, a scene in a fighter plane, scenes in restaurants.

When not in space, my characters are in Texas, Florida, D.C., Atlanta.

I’ve been to Disneyworld and Washington, D.C.  I’ve never set foot in Texas or Georgia.  I’ve never been on the vomit comet, I’ve never been inside the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.  I’ve never been out of Earth’s atmosphere.

So, how can I write about any of this?

Back to Wikipedia!  Woot!

Seriously, city information is great here.  Easy-to-read lists of local restaurants, demographic and geographic information.  Stuff that doesn’t necessarily make it onto the tourism site for the given city.

Lists of Air Force bases and stations, what wings are stationed there, etc.

A list of fencing terms, archery terms, college information that is readily accessible and in one place instead of having to search through hundreds of pages on a university’s website.

My next step after all this was to head for the bookstore.  Three books became my indispensable companions in writing:

Astronomy for Dummies (which then also led to Wikipedia for even simpler terms for some things).
Space Exploration for Dummies (taught me everything I need to know about NASA)
The Civilian’s Guide to the U.S. Military (helped me make sure all interactions were up to snuff)

I used the website “How Stuff Works” for additional research.  I sat in the cockpit of an old fighter plane and talked the guide’s ear off about the dials and controls.  She told me about updates to the interior for modern planes.  She asked me if I’ve been in a flight simulator.  (Said no, but inside I was screaming “How do I get in one of those?”)  I desperately want to go on the vomit comet.  I’d love to take fencing lessons and archery lessons to have a good feel for the motions.

But I can research what I don’t know from personal experience.

What Do I Know? — January 19, 2011

What Do I Know?

Yesterday, I talked about how boring my fiction would be if I took “Write what you know” literally.

Literature would be so boring if we could only write what we’ve personally experienced, right?

So here’s what I know.

I know how to do research.  And today I’m going to share with you my process for the research I did on Lodestar.

In the beginning was an idea.  I had this tickle of an idea to write a paranormal story.  I knew I didn’t want to write about vampires or werewolves.  There are plenty of stories cornering that market.  Besides, neither has ever much interested me.

So I set about doing my legwork.  First, I turned to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythical Creatures for ideas of a type of paranormal to write about.

My list came out at 8 classifications of creature.  Angels, elves, fairies, leprechauns, mermaids, nymphs, pixies, and sprites.

I took this list to Wikipedia.  I know, not a great source, but it worked.  I looked up each one in the encyclopedia and read all the entries.  I narrowed my list further and further until I came up with my top 3 finalists: angel, fairies, and elves.

Then I left the possibility to simmer before further research could be done.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next step in my research.

So, I had this brilliant idea — March 9, 2010

So, I had this brilliant idea

I had a great idea for a blog post.

It’s somewhere in my morning pages but I’m too lazy to go look it up.  Besides, I seem to remember that it would take a long time to actually write, and write well.  That’s time I don’t really have today.  So, I’m not sure where I’m going with this blog post.

Oh, I remember the topic idea.  Yeah, you’ll get it next week so I actually have time to write it out.  It’s sort of related to my bright shiny new idea that I got last week.

About ideas.  See, for me, they’re really just these little seeds that can sometimes take on a life of their own.  This new shiny idea I have was a dream I had the other night.  Really only the concept of the dream can be used since the entire thing took place in my garage.  Not exactly the most interesting setting for a full novel.

But I’m excited about this idea.  I think I have project ADD and shiny-object syndrome.  I love the development process of an idea.  There’s this stage for me with an idea where nothing has been solidified and so anything could go.  My brain works a thousand miles a second and there are always little nuances and things that pop into my head.  For each project I have a binder filled with blank notepaper.  I write down all the little inspirations and eventually make sense of them.  They’ll cohere into a solid backstory and mythology for the book.  It’s just going to take a while.

My plans while I research for bright, shiny new idea?  Well, I’m going to keep reading for a while.  And revising Oracles Promise.  But I hope to have OP ready for betas in about two to three weeks.  At which point I’ll go take a look at Lodestar again and start drafting it.  And researching more for the new idea.

Did I say my new idea is going to take a lot of research?  Because it is.  But that’s okay because I have access to lots of resources for that research.  Like an entire university library.  But that’s beside the point.