This blog follows how a romance novel set in the Borders of medieval Scotland is researched, written and hopefully *hopefully* published.

Join me on the writing journey and get inspired to try writing a little romance into your own life!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Power of Great References... Antiquarian Book Fair in Cooperstown

There are plenty of stories and books that can be written without using any reference books.

The adage "Write what you know," may help remind you of how this can be done. If you follow that advice strictly you'll wind up writing something only about your own life and direct experiences, quite possibly never needing a reference book (unless you spend time examining the eras in which you lived and some of the people and motivations around you ;-). But there are books that you can write requiring no references.

I just don't have much of an interest in writing books of that sort. So my library of reference books is building. Yesterday two references were added. One was free (a catalog of medieval and Renaissance style clothing and accouterments by Museum Replicas) and will be nice as a visual touchstone with Hollow Hearts and Hollow Hills.

The other was a book (that will help me with Dreams in Red) from 1926 that I found in the 14th annual Antiquarian Book Fair in Cooperstown, NY. My father actually bought it for me, talking the price down from $225 to $200 (waaay out of my price range). The reference book was one I'd seen listed on many bibliographies (but few writers seem to have access to one), but couldn't find. Mine is not a first edition, but it's amazing! Even in the first paragraph (of one of four lengthy chapters that relate directly to my book) I found 3 specific facts I hadn't found anywhere else. And that is just the beginning :-).

This reference will change many aspects of my writing--and deepen the authenticity of it in amazing ways. I challenge you to think about the way great books can make your writing even greater--Is there a particular reference book or antique book you'd want to add to your reference library?

Excited by a new (hmm---old?) book to use as a resource,


Devil Mood said...

Hi, I'm back. Addictive? Maybe.
You make some really interesting points so it's worth coming back. I'm that sort of write what you know writer, more or less. Writing about other eras seems extremely difficult, that's why I really admire authors that do that. The vocabulary, the way it is written...what a challenge!
Plus I really like having a great dose of reality in my fiction. I like setting my action in foreign countries though and I always go through extensive research to do that. For instance, if I want to write about a flat, I'll look for flats online. Sometimes I think I have no imagination lol

And on reference to your previous post: you have a lot going on here!

Saoirse Redgrave said...

Hi Devil Mood :-) Glad you're back. :-)

I like the fact you're using the internet for some of your research, too. That was the only way I was able to figure out what sort of birds would be singing in the Ettrick Forest of Scotland (even found a site that had the birdsong on it ;-).

I'm an absolute nerd about my research (although those same things that can enrich a story can also throw the brakes on it, too--I have a massive anachronism in my opening scene of Hollow Hearts and Hollow Hills but I can't figure out how to get around it--ugh!).

I agree with the fact fiction still needs a lot of reality to make it really work. The whole "write what you know" thing works for me because I've worked lots of weird jobs with unique people and I can sort of transpose their characters into what I write. I've found that although locations and eras may seem vastly different, people's motivations are generally the same.

Everybody wants something, so if we, as writers, can figure out what our characters REALLY want we can determine what lengths they'll go to in order to get it. By meeting more people and REALLY working to understand them and ourselves, we can write almost anyone in almost any setting. Then it just becomes a matter of the conflicts the other settings and characters create.

And, even though we may research a lot, I don't think it means our imaginations are limited--we just crave accuracy ;-).

Keep writing (and reading, of course),

Devil Mood said...

Wow, you researched for the birds that sang! That's very specific. I completely understand about the research sometimes getting in the way. Usually we have the story in our heads running smoothly but the real details that we want to add so much don't add up. It's so upsetting. But it's these little dramas that make writing so exciting :)

You really said it there: we need to know what our characters really want. That's so true and basic...and actually something I read in some writing tips: everybody wants something, otherwise there would be no point in writing about them. This gives me lots of food for thought :) thanks

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